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2007 Health Care Service Group Conference
21 December 2006

Conference recognises the fact that Ambulance workers, particularly those on the front line, have one of the highest incidences of ill-health retirement in the NHS. Some of the causes of this are inherent in the job, as lifting heavy patients in confined spaces and attending emergencies at insecure locations cannot be avoided without severely compromising patient care.

Conference also recognises that having to routinely deal with extremely distressing and traumatic situations is helped by the existence of informal support networks amongst staff, including being able to talk things over with colleagues.

Conference acknowledges tolerating these conditions on a daily basis is a testament to Ambulance Staffs dedication and professionalism. However Conference is concerned that in an effort to achieve efficiencies some Ambulance trusts are pursuing changes in working practices that stretch resources to the limit and are of further detriment to their staffs health and safety. These include:

·Covering staff shortages through Tactical Redeployment of vehicles and crews on a permanent basis. This results in Ambulances being constantly on the move and gives staff little or no opportunity to take proper breaks and network with colleagues.

·Closing Ambulance Stations to save money so there is no local base for crews who are again isolated from colleagues throughout their shift.

Such changes in working practices are likely to increase as a result of short term financial constraints being imposed by the centre. Whilst much attention has been focused on job losses in this regard the impact on the health and safety of the remaining workforce is often ignored. The situation is likely to deteriorate further as NHS funding increases are capped at inflation levels from 2008.

In addition to the detrimental impact on staff, significantly increasing the mileage and fuel consumption of Ambulances is not environmentally friendly. The planned mass closures of Accident and Emergency departments will only worsen the situation.

Conference calls on the Health Service Group Executive to consider commissioning a report on the impact of this issue and other efficiency measures on staffs health and safety and the environment, with the aim of raising general awareness of the problem and providing evidence to help support challenges to both national and local bad policy and practice.