Managers at the Yorkshire ambulance service are ignoring the recommendations of the Francis report, as they try to silence Unite, the country’s largest union, from raising patient safety concerns by derecognising the union.
Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said today (Thursday 7 February): “At a time when the Francis report recommends a culture of candour focused on patient care and underpinned by law, it beggars belief that bosses at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust have taken this action.
“They have derecognised Unite, as the trade union representing paramedics and other ambulance staff, for raising concerns about the proposed shake-up in ambulance services.
“It appears that managers have something to hide and don’t want to engage with a legitimate trade union which has been speaking up on behalf of its ambulance staff members and the Yorkshire public.
“Their attitude flies in the face of the findings of the Francis report and smacks of bullying and gagging those who believe patients will be put at risk. The fact that Unite’s membership at the trust has soared in recent weeks proves that we are on the right track in raising concerns.”
Unite is currently taking legal advice on the trust’s decision.
A key proposal by the trust - in a bid to save £46 million over the next five years - is the introduction of emergency care assistants (ECAs) to work alongside more highly-trained paramedics. The ECA staff have only six weeks training, when a paramedic undergoes a two-year degree course.
This introduction has resulted in managers currently deploying unqualified staff to emergencies with, in some cases, other ECAs or unqualified assistant practitioners.
Unite said the response to 999 calls is becoming a postcode lottery. The sick and injured may receive attention from a fully-trained paramedic crew, but, on the other hand, they could get a private ambulance containing unqualified staff.
Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe said: “Unite will not sit idly by while this management bully staff into accepting a second class service for the public of Yorkshire, putting lives at risk.
“These changes will damage public confidence. Management is seeking to silence opposition to these vicious cuts. It will not work. Those responsible for the decision to make these cuts and derecognising a trade union that defends the public and its members will be held to account for their actions.”
The trust currently has over 300 staff who will be demoted and de-skilled as a result of the plans being introduced and the majority of these staff will have little or no opportunity of further training for at least seven years.
For further information please contact Terry Cunliffe on 07776 202007; Rachael Maskell on 07768 693933; Debbie Wilkinson, Unite senior rep at the trust, on 07815 145054 and/or Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.5 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.