The planned shake-up of the Yorkshire ambulance service is all about cost-cutting and nothing about improving patient care, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Tuesday 8 January).
A key proposal by Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust - in a bid to save £46 million over the next five years - is the introduction of emergency care assistants to work alongside more highly-trained paramedics.
Unite regional officer, Terry Cunliffe said: “Currently, paramedics undergo a two-year degree course to equip them with the correct skills to respond to patients. The new proposed emergency care assistant role will be responding to emergencies with only six weeks training.
“This could lead to situations, such as multiple car crashes and house fires, when the emergency care assistants won’t have the necessary skills to support the paramedics.
“Our biggest concern is about patient care. Members of the public will have a decreased level of clinical response with overworked staff whose morale has been badly hit by this misguided de-skilling plan.
“Nothing about these proposed workforce changes are ultimately about improving patient care. The changes are as a direct result to financial cuts in ambulance services nationally and will lead to a decreased level of clinical response.”
Unite said that the trust’s intention is to abolish the current ‘urgent tier’ of response. These staff currently transport urgent cases which a GP has assessed needs admission to hospital. In future these patients will be transported via emergency ambulances and Unite feels they will then be pushed to the “back of the queue”, as 999 calls take precedence.
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.
These staff will lose a significant percentage of their earnings and pension rights once their protection ends. Changes have also been proposed to current meal break agreements which adversely affect staff pay and terms and conditions.
Terry Cunliffe added: “Unfortunately we have had recent experience on how this ‘brave new world’ would operate. Over the new year, crews were denied adequate rest breaks on shifts of up to thirteen hours.
“The real issue is not one of securing the best possible clinical outcomes, it is about imposed cuts of £46 million over the next five years. Unite says that it is impossible to cut such an amount from the service without compromising patient care.
“Unite strongly disagrees with the trust’s assertion that this model has been used successfully elsewhere, and we have evidence that other trusts have abandoned this model as a result of adverse impact on patient care.
“We hope that the Yorkshire trust will have an urgent re-think of its plans.”
For further information please contact Terry Cunliffe on 07776 202007; 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.