Eight in 10 staff at ambulance service covering Northamptonshire have considered quitting due to stress, claims union

EMAS vehicles at Mereway ambulance station
EMAS vehicles at Mereway ambulance station

More than half of staff at the ambulance service covering Northamptonshire say stress levels are so high it affects how they do their job, a survey suggests.

The questionnaire, conducted by the union unison among staff in key departments at East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS), revealed that eight in 10 respondents had considered leaving their job because of stress.

I was less stressed and treated with more respect by my previous employer.

EMAS staff member who had served in Afghanistan

Unison said other responses showed three quarters of union members had sleeping problems (77.19 per cent) and more than two thirds (68.42 per cent) experienced irritability and mood swings as result of stress due to pressures from staff shortages, long hours and shift over-runs.

Out those who reported stress-related problems, just under half (49.17 per cent) said they had had an affect on how well they were able to do their job at some point.

Another area of pressure highlighted by the survey was an increased emphasis on meeting time targets for dealing with patients, with one participant commenting: “There is a lot of bullying from managers on frontline staff regarding targets.”

One person, who previously worked as an army combat medic in Afghanistan, said: “I was less stressed and treated with more respect by my previous employer.”

Another commented: “I am just coping at the moment, but given the opportunity (i.e. the same pay) I would rather be cleaning toilets than this job.”

Lee Goddard, Unison branch secretary for EMAS, said: “Staff were asked if they felt that the EMAS NHS Trust supports a good work life balance and 73 per cent who responded said that they did not agree with this statement.

“Sue Noyes, CEO of EMAS since 2013, has introduced a Listening into Action (LIA) scheme, which involves a forum to listen to staff, but still staff do not feel as a whole that they are being listened to and heard.

“Unless staff views, opinions, health and wellbeing are seriously looked at and actions put in place, it is Unisons’ opinion that sooner or later it will be our staff that will be the patients at the very least.”

He explained that recent figures show that, on average, at least one member of frontline staff leaves the trust every eight days and said: “I would urge the trust to look at the roles of the staff and the current targets and restraints they face before it is too late for the trust, staff and ultimately the patients.”

A spokeswoman for EMAS responded: “The health and wellbeing of our colleagues is an absolute priority.

“It is recognised nationally that the role of ambulance crews can be physcially demanding, and that for frontline crews and Emergency Operations Centre colleagues the traumatic incidents responded to can cause increased levels of stress.”

The trust’s board last week approved a new ‘people’ strategy which, they said, will “see us invest further in the recruitment and development of colleagues” in order to respond appropriately to the “ever-increasing demand on the NHS and our service.”

Support services offered to staff include a ‘Peer 2 Peer’ scheme, which involves 80 staff members trained to provide a supportive network that allows colleagues struggling to cope with tragic incidents to discuss their feelings.

There is also a measure to train pastoral care workers in a similar way, but with the added capacity to talk to staff about their spiritual and religious needs.

The EMAS spokesman added: “We also provide support through the PAM Assist 24/7 confidential phone line, occupational health services, and EMAS chaplaincy support.”