UNISON survey reveals stress among ambulance staff

Nine in ten ambulance workers are suffering from stress, according to a recent survey carried out by trade union UNISON.

The online survey, which was completed by 2,977 ambulance workers, revealed that causes of stress among staff were long hours (71%), staff shortages (65%), mental demands of the job (45%), target culture (52%), physical demand of the job (40%), bullying and harassment (25%), and abuse of violence at work (15%).

The survey also revealed that 74% suffer from sleep problems, 72% felt irritable as a result and experience mood swings, and 56% suffer from anxiety.

Additionally, 38% said they had to take time off sick because of work-related stress and 26% admitted they were close doing so.

UNISON, which represents 20,000 ambulance workers in the UK, have raised concerns that employers are not fulfilling their duty of care, as more than half of respondents said they were unaware of any steps being taken by their employer to remove or reduce stress.

UNISON head of health, Christina McAnea, said:

‘Working in emergency services is stressful but the pressure on ambulance staff is reaching dangerously high levels.

‘It is unacceptable that the current system doesn’t allow for proper breaks between shifts,’ she added. ‘Workers have told us they often work 14-hour shifts without a decent break.’

Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at mental health charity Mind, said:

‘This data reveals the worrying scale of stress among ambulance workers, and echoes our findings which revealed the extent of stress and mental health problems across all emergency services personnel.’

Last month, Mind launched its Blue Light Programme, a major new programme of mental health support for emergency services staff after being awarded £4 million of funding from the Cabinet Office.

The programme aims to focus on tackling stigma and discrimination, embedding workplace wellbeing, building resilience, and providing information and support.

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 30 April 2015.

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