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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Ambulance staff strike in dispute over pay

Ambulance staff were among the thousands of health workers who took part in a strike over pay on 13 October.

Workers from seven trade unions took part in the strike, which lasted from 07:00 to 11:00 BST in England.

Unions and managers had met in advance of the strike to ensure essential services were maintained, with military and police personnel helping ambulance services where needed.

Despite ambulance services developing backlogs, priorities were given to life-threatening cases.

The dispute came as ministers in England have awarded NHS staff a 1% increase in pay, but only for those without automatic progression-in-the-job rises.

The independent NHS Pay Review Body recommended a 1% rise across all pay scales, but ministers claimed this was an ‘unaffordable’ cost.

The unions involved in the strike included Unison, Unite, GMB, UCATT, the Royal College of Midwives, the British Association of Occupational Therapists, and Managers in Partnership.

Christina McAnea, head of health at Unison, said the offer in England was a ‘disgrace’.

‘The fact that so many unions representing a range of NHS workers are taking action or preparing to join future actions should send a clear message to the government,’ she said.

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 20 October 2014.

UNISON warns stress epidemic threatens breakdown of ambulance service

Trade union UNISON has warned that the ambulance service is on the verge of breaking down as a result of high levels of stress among its staff.

A survey of 1,332 NHS ambulance workers released on 11 April has highlighted tight targets, long hours and the physical demands of the job have led to one in five saying that they have a ‘terrible’ work-life balance.

According to the survey, a third of respondents (34%) have taken time off work due to work-related stress in the past year. While some are looking to leave the profession, there are many who continue to suffer in silence, afraid of the repercussions should they make their voice heard.

It was also revealed that 74% of staff said they suffered from mood swings and irritability, two thirds said they were sleeping too little, and more than half suffered from anxiety.

UNISON Head of Health, Christina McAnea, said:

‘The Government needs to take work-related stress in the ambulance service seriously or it will break down.

‘Our members accept that their jobs can be physically demanding and challenging. However, some now tell us they are suffering from heart palpitations, flashbacks, nightmares, migraines, depression and an overall feeling of despair. As a result, many are actively looking to leave the profession.’

Higher call-out rates, extended waiting times outside A&E departments and the recent change of expected retirement age to 68 have all contributed to the increased anxiety among ambulance staff.

‘Work-related stress is the elephant in the room’ McAnea added. ‘Employers can’t keep on ignoring it. We expect them to do all they can to manage and where possible eliminate the risks to the health and welfare of their workforce.’

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 28 April 2014.