Staff shortages, long hours and the mental demands of the job are placing an enormous burden on ambulance workers in the East Midlands as nearly nine in ten say they are suffering with stress, according to a new UNISON survey.
The survey was published today (Friday) ahead of the union’s annual health conference in Liverpool next week.
The survey – of 126 ambulance workers in the East Midlands – reveals that more than three-quarters (77 per cent) said they suffered with sleep problems as a result of stress, more than two-thirds (68 per cent) said they felt irritable and experienced mood swings, and more than half (54 per cent) suffered from anxiety.
Four in ten (41 per cent) said they had to take time off sick because of work-related stress and more than a quarter (26 per cent) admitted they were very close doing so.
One East Midlands paramedic said: “I am just about coping at the moment but given the opportunity to earn the same pay, I would rather be cleaning toilets than doing this job.”
Others described being tearful, suffering with migraines, post traumatic stress disorder and feeling exhausted.
Half of those responding admitted they did not tell their employer that the reason they were off sick was stress, and fewer than one in ten (six per cent) said they would talk to a manager or a supervisor to cope with stress.
As a result of pressures on the service and the workers themselves, four-fifths of the respondents (80 per cent) admitted they had thought about leaving the job.
UNISON East Midlands spokesperson, Corall Jenkins, said: “Working in emergency services is stressful but the pressure on ambulance staff is reaching dangerously high levels.
“It is unacceptable that the current system doesn’t allow for proper breaks between shifts.
“Workers have told us they often work 14-hour shifts without a decent break.
“Higher call out rates and lengthy waits outside A&E departments are adding to the problem. It is clear that the pressure caused by government funding cuts is having a huge impact on staff and on patient safety. But it is vital that patients use the service responsibly – for example only calling 999 for an ambulance when there is a real emergency.”