Ambulance crews’ anger over shifts

By Scott McPherson, Swindon Advertiser

ALMOST 100 per cent of Ambulance crews in Wiltshire have indicated that they would be prepared to strike over changes being made to their shift patterns.

Crews in Wiltshire, Avon and Gloucestershire have indicated that they would take industrial action over sweeping changes being implemented by Great Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust.

The changes affect shift patterns and shift times, and remove ambulance crews’ right to two rest breaks in shifts that last a minimum of 12 hours.

Unison, the public service union that represents ambulance crews in GWAS, sent a consultative questionnaire to all affected members.

The questionnaire is not a formal ballot for strike action, but it indicates what the results would be if an industrial action ballot was issued.

A massive 97 per cent of responses said they had no confidence in GWAS management and 96 per cent said that they would be prepared to take some form of industrial action short of strike action.

A further 94 per cent said that, if necessary, they would vote to support strike action.

Unison steward and Swindon paramedic Phil Davis said:

This is an issue about welfare and safety of our patients and our ambulance crews.

If you call for an ambulance, you expect the crew who arrive to be at the top of their game.

Would you want emergency ambulance crews that have worked long hours without opportunity to eat or drink properly?

Would you want a paramedic making life-or-death decisions without having adequate sleep before arriving for a 12-hour shift?

This is what our employer wants. Ambulance crews are in a caring profession and understand that our patients should expect the best. We can give them the best, but not if the employer treats us like numbers.”

Unison has invited senior executives from GWAS to meet with staff representatives in order to find a mutually agreeable way forward that provides the best for patients and staff.

GWAS spokesman John Oliver said the changes were being made to ensure the right numbers of vehicles and staff were on duty at peak times.

He said the service was recruiting 81 new frontline staff, including paramedics, as well as making changes to shift patterns and rotas.

The changes are designed to be beneficial for patients and also help crews as well,” he said.

Mr Oliver added that a consultation process started five months ago and he accepted that the changes were unsettling to some staff.

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