Paramedics feel pressure of 265 unfilled staff vacancies

Ambulance service whistleblowers say staff are feeling the pressure of unfilled vacancies in Oxfordshire

Ambulance service whistleblowers say staff are feeling the pressure of unfilled vacancies in Oxfordshire

First published in News
Last updated
thisisoxfordshire: Photograph of the Author by , Education Reporter, also covering West Oxford. Call me on (01865) 425437

THE ambulance service for Oxfordshire is more than 260 staff short, latest figures have shown.

According to figures released on Monday, South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) has 265 vacant posts and had to increase its use of private ambulances by 10 per cent in the past year to cope with what it calls a “surge in demand”.

It said it only has funding to recruit 90 paramedics this year.

Whistleblowers at SCAS, which employs about 2,800 people, have warned patients’ lives are being put at risk as stretched paramedics work 10 hours without even a toilet break.

The service looks after 3.8m people across Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Hampshire.

A whistleblower said tired staff were leaving amid fears they will crash an ambulance.

One whistleblower, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “Some of the staffing levels are at the lowest in six years.

“We work 12-hour shifts and we are going nine or 10 hours without having a break to go to the toilet or for a meal. Sometimes a call will come in at the end of our shift which takes us into 13 or 14 hours.

“We are often so tired and fatigued that we can’t function properly.

“You can request a break, but as a paramedic you are always needed to go to life and death emergencies.

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“We don’t get driving breaks like lorry drivers do.

“There could be serious consequences of driving 100mph to an emergency when you have had nine hours without a break.

“Often when I get to a patient, I’m not able to focus properly or do the best job I can.

“Now it is about meeting targets.”

Official figures show SCAS met its Government target of responding to 75 per cent of emergencies within eight minutes in 2013.

However, it has the highest rate in the country of patients who were only dealt with over the phone recalling 999 within 24 hours.

Responding to the whistleblower’s claims, a spokesman for SCAS said not all 265 vacant posts were for paramedics.

He said the trust plans to recruit at least 90 graduate paramedics this summer, adding: “Demand is rising significantly year-on-year and our recruitment plans are challenged to try to meet the increasing need for more and more paramedics.

“There is a national shortage of paramedics – this is not just a local issue. Health Education England, in discussion with ourselves, decide on the number of paramedic training places they will fund at university.

“These include a number of places for our staff.

“In addition to the recruitment of new graduates, 28 of our own staff will qualify as paramedics this summer.

“Our workforce continues to grow each year. Last year we recruited 198 frontline staff.

“In addition to the recruitment of new staff, our workforce plans include proposals for the retention of staff, exploring a number of options for more flexible working patterns, and we continue to review the deployment of staff to meet high demand periods.”

Comments (5)

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4:32pm Wed 9 Apr 14

oafie says...

Lets look at NHS jobs site
Lets look at NHS jobs site oafie
  • Score: -3

5:46pm Wed 9 Apr 14

puddlicotepete says...

I was a paramedic with this service having previously worked for Oxfordshire Ambulance. The decline started after the merger took place and the service became a large corporate organisation which soon started to become an unwieldy headquarters centric organisation. Sadly the provision of an emergency ambulance service seems to be secondary to filling luxurious corporate office blocks with administrative and managerial type roles.
The frontline staff are as the article states at breaking point with constant late finishes after 12 hour shifts and lack of breaks. The response to this article from scas talks about reviewing the deployment of staff to meet high demand, what this means in practice is shift patterns being changed yet again with even more unsocial hours being worked. Shifts were changed recently and were supposed to meet demand but in practice it means there are less staff on duty overnight who have to work continuously all night. The whole organisation is rotten yet they continue to bombard us with scas good news stories in an attempt to brainwash us all into thinking they are innovative and high performing. Experienced staff are leaving in droves to other organisations within the NHS where their experience is welcomed and they feel valued. To reverse the rot the following points need to be addressed - a massive clear out of jobs for the boys managers and corporate biro jockeys, a focus on providing a frontline ambulance service, proper medically qualified managers in the control room who know what it is like to work at the frontline and make decisions about deployment rather than the stroppy spotty teenagers that run the place now, proper triage of all emergency calls so that non emergency calls are not responded to by an ambulance but are instead directed to appropriate places for their needs.
I was a paramedic with this service having previously worked for Oxfordshire Ambulance. The decline started after the merger took place and the service became a large corporate organisation which soon started to become an unwieldy headquarters centric organisation. Sadly the provision of an emergency ambulance service seems to be secondary to filling luxurious corporate office blocks with administrative and managerial type roles. The frontline staff are as the article states at breaking point with constant late finishes after 12 hour shifts and lack of breaks. The response to this article from scas talks about reviewing the deployment of staff to meet high demand, what this means in practice is shift patterns being changed yet again with even more unsocial hours being worked. Shifts were changed recently and were supposed to meet demand but in practice it means there are less staff on duty overnight who have to work continuously all night. The whole organisation is rotten yet they continue to bombard us with scas good news stories in an attempt to brainwash us all into thinking they are innovative and high performing. Experienced staff are leaving in droves to other organisations within the NHS where their experience is welcomed and they feel valued. To reverse the rot the following points need to be addressed - a massive clear out of jobs for the boys managers and corporate biro jockeys, a focus on providing a frontline ambulance service, proper medically qualified managers in the control room who know what it is like to work at the frontline and make decisions about deployment rather than the stroppy spotty teenagers that run the place now, proper triage of all emergency calls so that non emergency calls are not responded to by an ambulance but are instead directed to appropriate places for their needs. puddlicotepete
  • Score: 17

9:30pm Wed 9 Apr 14

PK Nuts says...

We are over worked, shift patterns are not conducive to match demand and managers do not care, but when you need us we will always be there if it is a life saving emergency. We will put you first above our own safety and well being every time.
We are over worked, shift patterns are not conducive to match demand and managers do not care, but when you need us we will always be there if it is a life saving emergency. We will put you first above our own safety and well being every time. PK Nuts
  • Score: 8

9:53pm Wed 9 Apr 14

the wizard says...

Yer another ploy by Cameron to run down services so he can say it doesn't work so it can get farmed out to private companies and sold off at a massive loss to the tax/rate payer. Mates rates yet again no doubt.
Yer another ploy by Cameron to run down services so he can say it doesn't work so it can get farmed out to private companies and sold off at a massive loss to the tax/rate payer. Mates rates yet again no doubt. the wizard
  • Score: 0

9:51am Thu 10 Apr 14

bicesterlady says...

Remember the story about the old chap a few weeks ago? The one that wasn't taken to hospital but later found to have a nasty back injury?

Maybe here's the explanation. Run people ragged they eventually snap.
Remember the story about the old chap a few weeks ago? The one that wasn't taken to hospital but later found to have a nasty back injury? Maybe here's the explanation. Run people ragged they eventually snap. bicesterlady
  • Score: 0

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