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Friday, 29 August 2014

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Sickness levels show South Cumbria ambulance service is under ‘huge strain’

STRESS-RELATED illness has forced 60 paramedics to miss thousands of days of work in Cumbria since 2011.

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under pressure A total of 60 paramedics have missed thousands of days of work due to stress-related illness

A freedom of information request submitted to the North West Ambulance Service by the Evening Mail revealed 3,345 sick days related to stress had been taken by ambulance staff in Cumbria during that period.

Of the 60 paramedics, 17 were based in Barrow, Ulverston or Millom.

Across the service as a whole 44 paramedics are still signed off, including four in Cumbria, who have missed a combined total of 4,543 days of work.

The service said the figures cover both work and personal stress-related absence such as bereavement, upset at home and marital breakdown.

It claimed the term also includes conditions such as depression, eating disorders, anxiety and panic attacks which may not be related to work.

However, it admitted realigning operational vehicles in order to cope with demand and offering staff overtime to plug the gaps.

In April a national survey of 1,332 NHS ambulance workers by healthcare union Unison, revealed a high level of stress with one in five saying they have a “terrible” work-life balance. A third of respondents said they have taken time off due to work-related stress in the past year.

Mike Oliver, NWAS paramedic and Cumbria convener for Unison, said crews in the county often worked through breaks during their shifts.

He said: “The job is very demanding and challenging and we work under constant pressure.

“I am told shifts constantly run over and run through breaks.

“The service is under huge strain. We are seeing a higher number of call-outs and this is having an impact on patient safety.

Michael Forrest, director of organisational development for the service, said: “The welfare of our staff is something we take very seriously. We are aware that our crews, at times, can become stressed and we offer support both from the trust directly and indirectly from our occupational health services.

“We are constantly reviewing our working environment and working practices to ensure we provide a safe and healthy working environment for all staff. Progressive employment policies are in place, which are designed to assist the creation of a good work-life balance and, in turn, help support staff who suffer from stress-related illness.”

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