Why will paramedics be marching to save our NHS?
Joe, a paramedic with over 30 years NHS Service, explains why he’ll be marching in Manchester on the 29th September.
Paramedics and 999 emergency staff are a pretty tolerant bunch. They put up with all sorts of inconveniences on a regular basis such as late or no lunch breaks, shifts that over-run, violence at work and abuse from a small minority of the people they are sent to, unsocial hours, missing family events, short staffing and being the first on scene to all types of emergency situation. They don’t have a controlled environment, they can’t tell the family to go sit in the quiet room, they don’t have a doctor on standby to advise on medication or procedure, all they have is each other – unless they are a sole responder on a rapid response vehicle. It is a stressful job but rewarding.
That’s why you may hear a complaint about the lack of adequate uniform or the design of a new vehicle but paramedics never complain about patients, their work or anxious relatives. The public recognise that paramedics and 999 emergency staff are ready, willing and able to deal with any emergency and they hold the profession in very high esteem. The public trust the profession.
That is why it goes against the grain for ambulance staff to protest in public; not against their job or even their employer, but against the government and what has been happening to the ambulance service over the past couple of years.
- The collapse of 111 (non emergency number) in many English regions has caused confusion and a sharp increase for the 999 Ambulances to pick up the pieces.
- The financial pressures put on NHS Trusts across the U.K. has meant cutbacks, cost improvement plans, non filling of vacancies and delays for patients.
- The prospect of the majority of paramedics having to work well beyond age 65 and contributing more into their pension for the privilege of working longer with very little provision for re-deployment if they become injured, attacked or are finding difficulties with front line work.
- A real danger of a fragmented service following 10 years of stability brought about by the Agenda for Change agreement which harmonised pay and terms and conditions for the profession across the U.K. but is now slowly being dismantled.
- Further privatisation of whole parts of the Service from the non emergency patient transport services, to the outsourcing of support jobs.
- Flat pay for the past 3 years and a risk, in some places, that pay could be reduced.
The ambulance service wants to move towards a more clinically focused, patient centred profession that doesn’t rely on targets and performance as the sole measure of success or failure. In order to achieve this there needs to be a major programme of upskilling of staff to meet the challenges of an ageing population, new pathways of care and improved outcome based practice. The ambulance service say they want this, paramedics and their trade unions agree, and most importantly the public deserve this, that’s why paramedics will be marching on September 29th.