The main issues facing staff in ambulance services across England are recruitment and retention, pay and retirement age.
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.
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.
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 role” Band 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 underpaid” Band 5 community paramedic – North East