The government is being urged to lower the retirement age for ambulance staff to bring them into line with other emergency services workers, says UNISON today (Monday).
Paramedics will this afternoon travel to Whitehall to hand the health and social care secretary Matt Hancock a petition. It has been signed by more than 250,000 people and is calling for their retirement age to be reduced from 67 to 60.
Ambulance workers face extreme physical and mental pressures, says UNISON, including shifting from day to night rotas, lifting and carrying patients, and attending traumatic incidents.
But they currently retire seven years later than other parts of the emergency services. Police officers for example can retire at 60, as can firefighters.
The petition was started by paramedic Matt Fisher (52) after the loss of his colleague 63-year-old Ian Canning who died just weeks into retirement and just before the birth of his first great-grandchild Theo.
Grandfather-of-nine Ian was an incident response officer. He had spent nearly 40 years working for the London Ambulance Service (LAS) dealing with incidents including the Grenfell Tower fire and the 7/7 bombings.
Matt said: “Ian never got the chance to meet Theo or see his grandchildren grow up.
“He was passionate about his work but should have been spending time with his family. Not out in all weathers and at all hours dealing with harrowing incidents.
“He didn’t get to enjoy any of his retirement – just three weeks after his last shift he was dead.
“Despite being fit, ambulance staff do work that is often very physical. The public should be concerned they might be carried down many flights of stairs by men and women who are into their sixties.”
Ian’s daughter, 43-year-old Lisa Laker from Mitcham, who works in a school supporting children with emotional issues, said: “Saving lives was the be all and end all for my dad – he dedicated his life to it. But the job is mentally and physically demanding.
“My dad didn’t get quality time with his family when he was alive, and sadly didn’t have that in his short retirement.”
UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “Ambulance staff do a physically and mentally demanding job. They often work outside in challenging circumstances, and do shifts that can have an impact on their health.
“Lowering the retirement age in line with other emergency services is the right thing to do. We’re urging Matt Hancock to make this a reality.”
Notes to editors:
– The petition will be handed in today (Monday 10 December) at 2pm at the Department of Health and Social Care, 39 Victoria Street, Westminster, London SW1H 0EU. Lisa Laker, her daughter Natasha and grandson Theo will be attending the event along with Matt Fisher and paramedics from the LAS.
– The retirement age for ambulance staff in the 2015 NHS pension scheme is their state pension age. That means they can retire between 65 and 68. Some ambulance staff who joined the service much earlier can retire at 60.