Thousands of sick days for stressed paramedics

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PARAMEDICS at Britain’s second worst performing ambulance service each took the equivalent of 25 days per year off sick.

East of England Ambulance Service (EEAS) workers, who take patients to hospital in emergencies, were off ill for 22,848 days from October 2009 to September 2011.

The sick leave was taken by 443 EEAS employees.

Since 2008, a total of 4,193 EEAS employees have claimed overtime costing £37.5m.

In July 2006, EEAS had 4,050 employees - but as of April this year that figure was just 3,936.

The Department of Health had previously revealed that in July this year EEAS was the only trust nationwide not to meet its target of answering 75 per cent of the most urgent calls within eight minutes.

EEAS spokesman Lorna Marsh said: “Our staff are our greatest asset and we take their wellbeing extremely seriously.”

She said EEAS support for staff includes clinical counselling, advice on work-life balance, access to legal assistance, financial advice and career support.

For her full statement, see below:

Overtime: “The overtime figure includes providing cover for events such as music festivals and sporting occasions for which the Trust is reimbursed by organisers. With regards to 999 overtime as with all ambulance services it is factored in at budget setting level as a necessary resource to address volatile demand levels because employing fixed resources which would be surplus to demand for significant periods of time would not be cost effective. Having said that more sophisticated demand analysis has enabled us to stabilise overtime levels over the past three years against a 15% rise in demand and we are continuing to work on managing this even more effectively in the future. Overtime for staff is capped to ensure their well being.”

Sickness: “Our staff are our greatest asset and we take their wellbeing extremely seriously. We recognise that sickness absence needs careful management and we strive to work with staff very closely over any issues they may have, whether work or home related, and offer them extensive, comprehensive support.

“Last year we restructured our Occupational Health service as part of the new Health and Wellbeing strategy. Areas of focus included improving the speed of access to OH services for managers and staff and improving access to external service including counselling.

“In addition we launched a comprehensive Employee Assistance Programme this year. This is a 24/7 service designed to improve both access to and range of support available to staff on matters both in and outside of work. The services available, all free of charge, include clinical counselling, advice on work-life balance, access to legal assistance, financial advice and career support.

“A fully revised Sickness Absence Management policy was also launched with the aim of supporting both staff and managers in a simpler way and ensuring that people have the appropriate support, which in turn helps reduce staff sickness. There are a number of additional points of support such as the confidential Occupational Health service, stress risk assessments and mental health workshops.

“Sickness levels since these initiatives were introduced have fallen. They are also in line with NHS ambulance services nationally which range from 5% to 7.9% [link below].”

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmpubacc/1353/135306.htm

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