Ambulance staffing levels ‘putting lives at risk’, claims UNISON

Written by Tom Freeman on 22 December 2017 in News

Scottish ambulance service experiencing “out of the ordinary” level of demand

Glasgow ambulance - michel

Scottish ambulance workers are unable to take breaks due to “poor planning and dangerously low staffing levels”, which means that lives are being put in danger, a trade union has claimed.

UNISON, which is the most represented union in NHS Scotland, said ambulance technicians are currently being asked to work long hours without breaks, and are told to go off sick if they can’t cope.

The Scottish Ambulance service has experienced an “out of the ordinary” level of demand in the past few weeks, according to the special health board which runs the service.

However, UNISON said staffing levels have not been increased to meet winter demands this year.

The union’s ambulance service branch chair, Liam Boylan, said: “Forcing people to work ten or eleven hours without a break or a meal is clearly going to have a negative impact on both the individual’s ability to do a job well and their decision making.

“When you’re constantly doing this to ambulance technicians and paramedics, then it’s a recipe for disaster. Our members are being left with the choice of continuing tired and fatigued – more likely to have an accident or make a wrong decision – or to go off sick, adding to the pressure colleagues are facing.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “The service has been experiencing an exceptionally high, out of the ordinary, level of demand across the past week.

“Winter is an extremely busy time of year for the ambulance service and the NHS more widely and our staff are working hard to ensure patients get the care and treatment they need.

“We take staff welfare extremely seriously and we have put additional measures in place to support staff across this period. 

“We are continuing to work closely with our health board partners to manage increased winter pressure and we have issued clear messages to the public to signpost non-emergency healthcare advice and continue to encourage responsible use of our services.”

The Scottish Government predicted a 3.5 per cent increase in the numbers of ambulance staff in August.

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