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Revealed: Paramedics’ £2million compensation payouts for lost breaks

PUBLISHED: 09:50 01 March 2016 | UPDATED: 09:50 01 March 2016

An East of England Ambulance Service Trust ambulance.

An East of England Ambulance Service Trust ambulance.


The region’s ambulance service has paid nearly £2 million compensation to frontline paramedics for lost meal breaks in just four years, it can be revealed.

East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) staff can claim up to £25 per day if they miss a break, such as emergency workers attending 999 incidents during their lunch.

A total of £1,861,264 has been paid out to EEAST emergency workers from 2012/13 to the current financial year. The highest was £559,388 in 2014/15 – or £10,750 a week.

Last night, ambulance chiefs said the right balance has to be struck between staff welfare and maintaining “our response to patients who need us urgently”.

The figures were unveiled through Freedom of Information laws.

Tim Roberts, regional organiser for Unison, said the measures improve conditions for staff and care for patients.

But Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “The amount will raise eyebrows and taxpayers will question the merits of a contract which appears to allow emergency workers to claim compensation for having to respond to emergencies.

“At a time when every department has to find necessary savings these payments will seem particularly painful.”

It was revealed last year how the EEAST was considering plans to limit the number of 999 calls paramedics attend in the last hour of their shift to reduce the stress caused by working two or three hours extra.

Mr Roberts said: “All staff have the right to take a meal break, but to maintain an emergency service and ensure that patient care is not interrupted, there are occasions when it is not possible for them to take the break and in these situations we support the right of staff to receive a level of compensation.

“We also support the right as otherwise they might be working eight, nine or 10 hours in a row in a highly stressful situation, which is not good for patient care and is not good for staff welfare either.”

An EEAST spokesman said: “Ambulance services nationally face similar problems and everyone acknowledges that there’s no one solution or ‘magic bullet’ which will solve the problem.

“The issues (over late or missed breaks) are compounded by the increasing rise in 999 demand, as reported in the EADT last week, the higher acuity of our patients, student paramedic abstraction for training and hospital handover delays.

“It’s about striking the balance between staff welfare and wellbeing, and maintaining our response to those patients who need us urgently.

“Measures we have already taken include a late finishes trial, surveying staff for their views, a workshop with staff-side colleagues, putting more clinical staff in our control rooms to better manage demand including testing more in depth clinical triage for non-emergency patients, placing a GP in our control room to help treat more patients in the community, trying out different shift patterns and recruiting hundreds of new frontline staff.”

In contrast, South Central Ambulance Service Trust guidelines state paramedics who give permission at the start of their shifts to be “disturbed” during their break will receive £10 and a break later in the day.

East of England Ambulance Service Trust Meal Break Arrangements

4.3 Unpaid Element (opt in to be interrupted)

Staff and managers can choose to have their unpaid element of the break interrupted by emergency calls. Staff will be required to respond to category A, B and C calls, with the exception of those category C calls that are classed as “urgent” journeys. Those who choose to be available to respond to emergency calls during the unpaid uninterruptible element of the break should preferably notify the Health Emergency Operations Centre at the start of their shift.

4.4 Paid Interruptible Element

During the paid interruptible element of the break, staff and managers will be expected to respond to all 999 and urgent calls.

Allowances: The maximum amount claimable in any one shift is £25.

6.1 Off-Base Meal Break Allowance

If the break is taken outside of the agreed local area, staff can claim £5.

6.2 Interrupted Meal Break Allowance

Staff who choose to remain available during the unpaid uninterruptible element of their break and who are then interrupted will be eligible to claim the Interrupted Break Allowance of £20. In such cases, there will be no reimbursement of break time, or entitlement to time off in lieu.

6.3 Late Meal Break Allowance

If an unpaid break is not allocated within the specified time period (around “mid-shift”), staff can claim £20.

6.4 Missed Meal Break Allowance

If an unpaid break cannot be completed during the shift, staff can claim £20.


  • The important bit here which most seem to miss, they call it compensation but staf working a 12 hour shift are paid for 11.5 hours 30 minute meal break is unpaid therefore if the crews do not get that break they are entitled to be paid for it, they are not giving the crews anything extra.

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    Paul Mortimer

    Wednesday, March 2, 2016

  • On reflection, to clarify and to remove any doubt, when I said for the benefit of medical staff, I meant for their well being to enable them to work effectively. Ambulance staff, nurses, doctors, etc., are all important parts of providing effective health care.

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    Wednesday, March 2, 2016

  • Perhaps I am missing something here but isn't the most important point that they should have meal breaks? Difficult to manage I know but, if we want them to operate effectively, missing meal breaks is not the way to go. I have a relative who works at the N&N, it is not that unusual to not get a meal break during a 12 hour shift on the ward and the so called management makes it difficult to even get a drink. This is just plain wrong. Not sure that they get compensation either. Isn't someone meant to be managing for the benefit of patients and medical staff?

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    Wednesday, March 2, 2016

  • Easylec - We Ambulance crews work 11.5 hour shifts with a 30 min unpaid break. Here's an honest account of what is now a normal routine. Sometimes I work out of CromerDiss and I live in Norwich. Cromer is 40 mins and Diss is 50 mins from where I live. We work 11.5 hours shift with a 30 min unpaid break (12.0 hour day). 99% of the time we are at the end of our shift at the N&N with the subsequent travel time back to Cromer or Diss to drop the ambulance off for the oncoming shift crew and then to drive back home to Norwich. We can get jobs right up to the last second of our shift. If this happens and we are in Norwich at the N&N after handing over our previous patient, and the job is in Sheringham (as all the other ambulances from that area are queing at the N&N) that's a 45 minute drive (yes on blue lights). So now we're into forced overtime and 12 hours on the road and we haven't got a clue when we're going to finish (12.75 hours). On average, a full non-life threatening patient assessment on scene takes about 45 mins (13.5 hours). We then have to transport that patient back to N&N A&E another 45 mins (14.25 hours). If it's a quick handover and no queing at A&E that's 30 mins (also including getting the ambulance clean and ready again (14.75 hours), if it's not a quick handover and there are delays due to the N&N being at capacity we can stick on easily 1.5 hours (I'm being conservative here) (15.75 hours). We then have the journey back to base so we can stick another 45 mins on for Cromer (16.5 hours). So I have now worked a 16.5 hour day driving a 5.5 tonne vehicle on blue lights, fighting the traffic that think for some reason we can speed past them in our 5.5 tonne vehicle with it's standard engine and standard breaks whilst they carry on at 60 mph and refuse to stop or pull over; in between we may be doing CPR, giving emotional support to the family member who has been married for 50 years and for the first time is now alone as they have no familychildren to support them and they have just witnessed their loved one die and us unable to do anything. We could be dealing with an unresponsiveunconcious child, or a member of the public whose decided to ring 999 because they've got a hangover (yes we get these stupid calls as unfortunately as soon as someone mentions 'headache' and other symptoms the system will send us as they may be having a stroke). I'm so glad I have your support and I fully agree we should go without food, drink and a rest of 30 mins in a now 16.5 hour day (plus the 1.5-1.75 hours total drive to and from work. Never mind hey, better get home to not see my family as they are now all in bed, I might (if I can keep awake) microwave my food for my tea, then I'll go to sleep to do it all again tomorrow - Cheers Easylec, Just remember I'll be there for you when you need me. P.S. Trust me that after a while the compensation of distrubedlate meal breaks doesn't mean anything!!!

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    Grumbly Ol' Git

    Tuesday, March 1, 2016

  • easylec - Just a race to the bottom hey. Why should someone work through their break times. They're doing a 12 hour shift, trying to stop for a coffee and then they're expected to attend another call. This stuff isn't ocassional it'll be every shift. You can work through every break if you like that's up to you but when a paramedic shows up to treat me I'd rather they were rested and thinking straight, and so would every right thinking individual. If a paramedic works through their break for the fourth night shift in a row and makes a patient error because of it, I expect you will be paying the compensation yourself will you rather than expecting other tax payers to pay it? No, thought not. There's a difference between an office worker missing lunch and scattering typos all afternoon and a paramedic working through their break and administering the wrong dose of anaesthetic to a crash victim wouldn't you say?

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    Tuesday, March 1, 2016

  • easylec, it seems you have bought into the Tory misinformation that regards Paramedics as simply ambulance drivers. It seems you do not know what a paramedic is and does. It seems you do not realise they go into emergency situations outside, with every job location different. It seems that you think they shouldn't be well rested, have sufficient sustenance and hydration before making life or death decisions.

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    Tuesday, March 1, 2016

  • Whilst the ambulance service staff are a wonderful group of men and women one does have to question the outdated terms and conditions that they work under. There are mabe millions of workers who miss breaks and work long hours as part of their jobs. It seems we must have a well rested paramedic to deliver a patient to our doctors who routinely work long hours and miss their breaks. Time to get real.seems a few do not really mind unless they get compensated .Time for a revamp and offer a fair deal to both sides contract.

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    Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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