Ambulance uniforms not fit for purpose and may put staff at risk, says UNISON 

Ambulance employees work in all sorts of situations and weathers.  

Some ambulance staff are having to deal with emergencies while wearing uniforms that don’t fit properly and aren’t always visible to other drivers, according to a UNISON survey published today (Wednesday).

The findings are based on responses from more than 1,000 ambulance workers including paramedics and call centre staff working for ambulance services across the UK.

A motion debated at UNISON’s annual health conference in Liverpool highlights how uniforms provided to emergency crews by most NHS ambulance trusts are unfit for purpose and could be putting workers in extra danger.

It also points out that most uniforms are varying shades of green, which tend to blend into the background. This contravenes regulations for workers near roadways that require them to wear hi-vis protective clothing when near moving vehicles.

The union is campaigning for kit to be redesigned so it meets the requirements of all ambulance workers.

One in five (20%) ambulance staff who responded to the survey say their employer has never carried out a review of ambulance uniforms.

Two thirds (66%) agreed or strongly agreed that their uniform was too hot in summer, 40% that it was too cold in winter, and nearly two in five (39%) that their uniform didn’t fit well. Just over a third (35%) say they’ve had to make alterations to their uniform so it would fit properly.

Safety issues around uniforms were also raised by the survey. Nearly a quarter (24%) do not feel visible to other drivers when on the roadside wearing their uniform.

More than a third (35%) have raised issues about their uniform with their managers. Of these, more than 7 in 10 (72%) say their employer didn’t resolve the issue.

Among the issues documented by staff who responded to the survey include trousers constantly ripping, refusal by an employer to provide caps after an employee got sunstroke, and uniforms designed to fit men and not women.

UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “Ambulance employees work in all sorts of situations and weathers.

“It’s worrying that staff are wearing uniforms that are not fit for purpose or that put them at risk. This is especially troubling given the overwhelming job pressures they’re facing.

“Ambulance workers need properly fitting kit that keeps them safe, comfortable and doesn’t make their roles even more dangerous. All trusts should be carrying out reviews as a matter of urgency.”

Notes to editors:  

– A total of 1,127 ambulance workers completed the survey between ​Thursday ​14 April and Thursday 21 April ​2022.
Comments from ambulance workers who took part in the survey include: 
“Trousers are constantly ripping. And they’re unable to provide high leg boots after a year of ordering. So, I purchased my own.”
“I ordered the smallest shirts/polo shirts available and they’re still too big. I’m told it will have to do.”
“There’s no women’s fit, only men’s. It’s unbelievable.”
“We still have no reflective bands for the green uniform.”
– UNISON’s annual health conference is taking place in Liverpool. Topics being debated include pay and the cost of living, ambulance pressures, ambulance uniforms, parking charges and mileage, a 35-hour working week, NHS staffing levels and long Covid. The full agenda can be found here.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.