Addressing the burnout issue

Last month a special report on the issue of burnout among ambulance staff was published by the Larrey Society (2015), the cross-sector think tank for emergency medical services. Within the report, the society urges all NHS ambulance Trusts, independent companies and voluntary organisations to adopt a 7-point code of practice on work life balance designed to improve the working environment of all employees in the ambulance service. Specifically, the code calls on all Care Quality Commission regulated ambulance providers to:

  • Form a special work life balance task force comprising representatives of management and employees
  • Conduct an organisation-wide consultation programme in order to identify the extent that employees and their families are affected by the consequences of ‘burnout’
  •  Draw up and implement an action plan which includes the introduction of key performance indicators (KPIs), management and employee training to recognise early signs of burnout, exit interviews and access to an independent counselling service for employees and their families
  • Publicise the plan internally and externally so that all employees, their families and the public at large are confident that work life balance is formally recognised and is being addressed
  • Submit the plan to the Care Quality Commission as a benchmark for subsequent review at the end of years 2016, 2017 and 2018
  • Include a copy of the plan and subsequent updates, including any CQC comments, in tenders submitted to clinical commissioning groups for NHS contracts
  • Ensure all leaders are adequately trained with a professional qualification in leadership from an accredited body (NHS Leadership Academy/Chartered Management Institute/Institute of Healthcare Managers) and that specialised training in recognising employee ‘burnout’ and how they can support their employee better is provided. This should be done in conjunction with a review of policies and procedures.

The key actions were put together following the completion of an online survey by members of the Society, where they were asked to indicate issues they felt were important for the society to focus on. Burnout was identified as one of the key priority issues, with 40% of members choosing it as an area of focus. There is no denying that stress and burnout remains an important issue facing ambulance staff, with paramedics in England taking 41 243 days off in 2014 as a result of stress-related illnesses (Kirk, 2015). It is therefore welcoming that the society is seeking the support for the campaign from numerous organisations, including the Department of Health, the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, the Ambulance Services Charity and Unison.


Kirk A (2015) Paramedics take 40,000 days off sick with stress as strain on NHS takes toll. The Guardian. (accessed 3 August 2015)

The Larrey Society (2015) The ‘Ambulance Burnout’ Issue. (accessed 3 August 2015)

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 7 August 2015.