Paramedics working for East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) are beng encouraged to join a ‘peer support’ project to help reduce the high levels of work related stress.
Recent figures show the number of EMAS paramedics on long term sick leave due to stress has almost doubled from 36 in 2010/11 to 61 in 2013/14.
A paramedic, who wishes to remain anonymous, has also written to the Chronicle & Echo, in which they state many of his colleagues are regularly “physically, mentally and emotionally drained to the point of despair”.
The paramedic said: “Aside from the lengthy shifts which often run into 14 or 15 hours, or the 10 plus hours before these staff even stop for a drink let alone a break, the most concerning element of the job is the expectation that these staff can consistently and repeatedly deal with tragedy and trauma without any sort of support from the management team. It is indeed accepted and expected that within a role working for an emergency service you will deal with emotionally challenging situations.
“But wearing a green uniform does not provide you with immunity from emotional feelings. It is not unreasonable that after dealing with the death of a young family in a road traffic accident, or a pregnant woman killed, or a child murder or any equally demanding situation that you may wish to sit down with a senior member of staff and discuss the job. It is not unreasonable that after such a challenging call you may wish to have a cup of tea, or god help us a cry.”
In response, Blanche Lentz, general manager for EMAS in Northamptonshire, said the health and wellbeing of staff was an “absolute priority”.
She said: “We recognise the role of our frontline clinicians can be physically demanding and the traumatic incidents they respond to can cause increased levels of stress.
“I am a registered paramedic and have first-hand experience of how difficult it can be but I want to assure staff that their voices are being heard and changes have been made and will continue to be made to ensure they are supported in their work.
“Despite the challenges our colleagues do a fantastic job, delivering excellent care for patients often under very difficult circumstances and environments and I thank them for their continued support.”
Ms Lentz said EMAS offered a wide range of help facilities for colleagues including a staff support network, PAM Assist (a 24/7 phone line for staff support), chaplaincy support and a new informal support service amongst colleagues called ‘Peer 2 Peer’.
Kev Charles, an EMAS Paramedic and the service’s Chaplain is leading on the Peer 2 Peer project.
He said: “Over 80 staff have now signed-up to join the programme. They will receive training on coping methods, having a good listening ear and how to signpost colleagues to specialist services. Staff often provide support to each other and this programme will help those with an interest to develop the skills needed to help colleagues who are experiencing personal or work related stress.”