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UNISON says East of England ambulance staff at ‘rock bottom’ working 19-hour shifts

PUBLISHED: 00:12 13 March 2018

The injured cyclist was taken to hospital after the crash just off the A1302. Picture: SIMON PARKER

The injured cyclist was taken to hospital after the crash just off the A1302. Picture: SIMON PARKER

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A hard-hitting video has highlighted the impact late finishes are having on the mental health of frontline staff at the region’s ambulance service.

Fraer Stevenson, UNISON branch secretary. Picture: CONTRIBUTEDFraer Stevenson, UNISON branch secretary. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

UNISON has created the footage using comments gathered during a survey of more than 900 employees from the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST).

Participants told the union how they were now regularly working 14 to 15-hour shifts, with some clocking up to 19 hours, and this was taking its toll on their mental wellbeing.

UNISON claims EEAST had not kept a commitment to bring in specific measures to reduce enforced overtime by June 2017.

Fraer Stevenson, UNISON branch secretary, said: “Morale is rock bottom, sickness relating to mental health – the number one reason for sickness – reached a record high in December. Our members are at breaking point and the trust needs to step up and start doing the right thing by their staff.”

The film opens with an ambulance worker revealing how he had taken steps to plan his suicide before a colleague stepped in to help.

He adds: “They say it takes someone dying before changes happen, but we’ve lost colleagues due to the pressures and nothing changes.”

MP Norman Lamb said EEAST would be “very foolish to ignore this film”.

Kevin Brown, director of service delivery for EEAST, said: “The wellbeing of our staff is of paramount importance. We know and recognise being very late off duty is one of the biggest issues that face our frontline staff.

“We have tried, in partnership with UNISON locally, to find solutions and have trialled a number of initiatives over the past 18 months but these have not achieved the desired outcomes.

“Ultimately we know both the underlying issue and the solution sits in having an increased level of ambulances and staffing and this comes with more funding.

“We know that this is a national issue across the ambulance sector and we are pleased that our regulators have delivered a review of our capacity and made recommendations for increased resourcing.

“We will now work with commissioners to translate those recommendations into more staff to relieve the pressure on our workforce and provide the best care to patients.”

Mr Brown said EEAST would also work in partnership with its staff and UNISON to find a “sustainable solution” to address the problem.

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