Keep your pay promise to ambulance staff

In September we announced that the NHS Staff Council had agreed to publish a new Band 6 paramedic profile along with technical guidance from JEG to help local matching panels evaluate their current paramedic roles.

It has taken a little longer than hoped, but we are very pleased to welcome the publication of the profile by the NHS Staff Council. The significance of this development should not be underestimated.

The production of this profile has taken two years of joint collaborative work between trade unions, partnership working with employers and other national groups and bodies.

There is still much to do. The final agreement needs to be signed up to by all parties involved.

Each ambulance service will then need to undertake a local job matching process, in partnership with local trade unions, to evaluate their paramedic roles.

As the matching is done on a trust by trust basis, we cannot guarantee every paramedic band 6. However we have agreed that, in the event of a paramedic matching to the new band 6 profile, the effective date for pay purposes, will be 31 December 2016.

For more details, please see the frequently asked questions which will help explain the detail behind the package and how the transition will work. 

We will continue to influence and lobby to ensure that we represent your views in any national discussions relating to future workforce changes. 

View the full update


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The issue

The main issues facing staff in ambulance services across England are recruitment and retention, pay and retirement age.

Staff shortages

There is a massive recruitment and retention crisis in ambulance services across the U.K.

Both UNISON and employers recognise that the pressures of the job are leading to staff leaving.

However, in a survey, almost 3,000 paramedics they told us that pay is the main factor that influences their decision to leave. Our evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body, the organisation that makes recommendations to the government on pay, reflects this. However, employers do not agree that pay is as important to keep staff from leaving. Everyone knows that pay is important, especially when recognising the skills and responsibilities that all ambulance staff, not just paramedics, need to do the job.

Ambulance staff are under pressure whatever job they do. Whether that’s in a control room, NHS 111 centre or anywhere else in the service so we will continue to campaign and negotiate on improving working conditions including workload and demand

Our members do a fantastic job that is valued and respected by patients and their families. We know that most staff stay in their role because of the patients. In our survey to paramedics last year, when asked what motivates you to stay in your role?” the top reason was patient care (92 per cent), and just over three quarters (77 per cent) stated they enjoyed their jobs.

We are pushing the employers to look at career development opportunities for other ambulance staff as part of a national career framework that will enable staff to gain new skills and better pay as a result.

We are also asking the employers to work with us on how to deal with the spiralling level of demand on the ambulance service which continues to increase the pressure on all staff. We would like to work jointly on a health and wellbeing project that will help understand the difficulties facing staff and how best to deal with the stress they face.

Retirement age

Changes to pension law means that ambulance staff will be working until their late sixties before they can retire. With such a physically and mentally demanding job we don’t think this is reasonable.

We are talking to employers about an agreement where ambulance staff can bring forward their retirement age by one, two or three years by paying extra into their pensions. Half would be paid by the employer and half by the employee (unlike elsewhere in the NHS where the employee pays the whole increase). There are still finer details about the offer itself to be finalised, including who is eligible but UNISON is keen to get this in place so information can go out to staff as soon as possible.

UNISON believes that ambulance staff should have parity with other emergency services which means we are asking for a reduction in their retirement age.

What next?

If the government wants a modern ambulance service, capable of meeting the needs of the communities it serves it must invest in the staff that do an amazing job of saving lives and helping people – failure to do so will just make things worse and more staff will vote with their feet and leave the service.

Pay is part of the problem and therefore part of the solution

I am considering seeking employment elsewhere, where I would be paid Band 6 for the same roleBand 5 Paramedic

“My skill levels have advanced tenfold the responsibilities with new skills and pathways have increased I’m at the top of my band with nowhere to go, disillusioned and de-motivated over worked and underpaidBand 5 community paramedic – North East



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