Some ambulance shifts in Northamptonshire are not being fully covered because some medics who have been off sick are stopped from doing overtime, a paramedic has claimed.
Frontline East Midlands Ambulance Service staff who are off sick can, at the discretion of local managers, be made ineligible for overtime for 28 days.
One EMAS paramedic said: “It means that some shifts have less ambulances on them than there could be. That inevitably affects our ambulance response times. If an ambulance is not able to cover Brackley, you have to pull one down from Towcester and then another one down from Northampton to cover that one. It effectively means you sometimes have three ambulances covering Northampton rather than four.”
When numbers of available medics are low, EMAS will sometimes split ambulance crews and put them in first responder cars. Cars give a wider spread of vehicles, meeting response times, but cannot transport patients to hospital.
The paramedic said: “We’re exposed to TB, flu, chest infections, you name it. We can’t help being off now and again. To penalise us – and, ultimately patients – is counterproductive.”
Blanche Lentz, assistant director of operations, said a combination of the overtime ban and other measures had reduced sickness absence by almost one per cent, improving overall response times.
She said: “It is often inappropriate for staff to work extended hours after they have been off sick, because it can have a detrimental effect on their health and well-being.
“Overtime shifts resume once our managers, and the staff member, are satisfied they are fit and well.”