Ambulance workers ‘Sicker than the patients’

Most NHS staff would agree that a certain level of pressure or stress is to be expected within their place of work, it goes without saying that people who work within the public sector could at some point be subjected to an increased level of stress due to the situations their line of work places them in. This is particularly true of ambulance crews and the situations they find themselves in on a day to day basis.

However add this to the fact that public sector budgets seem to be shrinking by more and more each year and it could go some way to explaining the results of a recent survey showing that over a third of ambulance workers have taken time off work due to work related stress in the past year.

The Unison survey, published ahead of the union’s annual health conference in Liverpool next week, has revealed the shocking impact stress is having on emergency service employees in the region. The survey of 1332 NHS ambulance workers reveals a worryingly high level of stress, with one in five saying they have a ‘terrible’ work-life balance and 71% suffered from sleep problems.

These findings will be particularly worrying to vast amounts of public given the fact that the people surveyed are also the people we trust to help us in times of emergency, millions of patients rely on ambulance staff at some of the most traumatic times in their lives, for their high quality level of care, expertise and good will. Therefore the fact that the percentage of people suffering from stress at work within the ambulance service is so high is bound to give the public cause for concern, it is obvious from the findings that funding cuts and increased pressure within the ambulance area is no doubt going to have a negative impact on patient safety as well as staff safety

To add to this, another problem that the survey highlighted is that as a result of pressures on the service and workers, a huge 83 per cent admitted they had thought about leaving the job. The more people that are currently absent with stress within the ambulance service or even leaving their job can only add to the stress that the current employees are being put under.

This is by no means the first time this issue has come to light, the Unison survey backed up previous surveys carried out by employers. In light of these findings it has prompted UNISON regional head of health Tracey Lambert to comment on the matter, she was quoted saying “Year after year the levels of stress remain unacceptably high and yet neither employers nor the government have done anything to address this.”

Will this survey be the final straw that prompts the government to seriously look into the conditions of the NHS, surely it cannot continue to be run the way it is currently. Steps must be taken to support employees before the problem becomes unmanageable.

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