Health and welfare of ambulance members

Back to all Motions

2012 Health Care Service Group Conference
16 December 2011

The changing demands and nature of the ambulance service is threatening the health and welfare of UNISON ambulance service members.

Our members accept that working for the ambulance service is a physically demanding and challenging role. However they also expect employers to do all they can to manage and where possible eliminate the risks to their health and welfare.

Instead what we have seen is employers and the Government expecting ambulance staff to work longer and do more in an increasingly stressful, physically demanding and dangerous environment. For example the existing clock start policy regarding Category A (red2) calls currently leads to practitioners being dispatched before the call has been properly assessed. This leads to increased stress and pressure, constant cancellations en route to calls that turn out to be low priority, high levels of unnecessary driving on blue lights and sirens and ambulance staff turning up at public places or peoples’ houses before the call has even been categorised – posing risks to our members such as violent and aggressive assault and moving and handling patients without the proper backup or support. UNISON advises its members to carry out a dynamic risk assessment and put their own health and safety first. This though does put members in difficult but yet avoidable (by being given the right level of support by their employers) situations.

In addition, changes in access to early ill health retirement and pensions provisions means that staff are being expected to work longer putting their bodies at increasing risk of injury. Employers are also taking an increasing draconian approach to sickness absence, so that instead of making reasonable adjustments that will enable staff to work in their jobs when they are older, employers are forcing staff to work whilst they are sick or unfit to avoid being dismissed on capability grounds. NHS Ambulance staffs, Emergency Care Practitioners, Paramedics, Technicians and Patient Transport Staff are all required to be 100% fit and able to carry out a full range of lifting and handling duties, often in uncontrolled environments, to stay in post. The fragmentation of the NHS further exasperates the situation as it is increasingly difficult for ambulance staff to obtain less physically demanding employment within the wider NHS.

Conference therefore calls on the Health Group Executive to

1)Work with ambulance employers and NHS Staff Council to ensure that employers comply with the Equality Act and make reasonable adjustments to cater for ambulance workers’ disability;

2)Highlight with the Department of Health and NHS Staff Council how the fragmentation of the NHS is making it difficult if not impossible for ambulance staff to find alternative work within the NHS and to continue to fight for a UK wide NHS ill-health redeployment register;

3)Work with ambulance employers, NHS Protect and the Department of Health to amend existing clock start policy so that control and dispatch staff have more time to categorise calls correctly and ensure staff have sufficient resources to deal with whatever situation or incident they are called out to;

4)Work with NHS Protect, Health and Safety Executive and ambulance employers to ensure the risks associated with blue light driving are properly risk assessed and managed;

5)Continue to provide briefings for ambulance branches on protecting the health and welfare of ambulance members.