A survey of ambulance staff who are members of Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, has revealed they are suffering mental health problems at epidemic levels.

The survey’s initial findings have been released to coincide with World Mental Health day today (Thursday 10 October). Around 550 respondents have so far taken part in the survey.

Epidemic levels

The survey found that over half of ambulance staff have suffered from anxiety (54 per cent) while 44 per cent recorded they had suffered from depression. Ambulance staff also disclosed that two thirds of them (67 per cent) were excessively irritable or angry and over three quarters (77 per cent) were suffering from stress. Nearly a fifth (17 per cent) of respondents also reported trauma as a result of their work responding to life threatening emergencies.

The staff also recorded other problems including: tiredness (89 per cent), problems with sleep (85 per cent), generalised aches and pains (70 per cent), poor diet/loss of appetite (64 per cent), headaches (55 per cent) and gastric problems (54 per cent).

Excessive workloads

Workers recorded the primary reasons for experiencing stress at work were excessive workloads, unrealistic targets, late finishes, the lack of flexible working and a lack of consultation on changes at work.

Nearly a third of respondents reported having been diagnosed with a mental health problem and the vast majority of those said that their work contributed significantly in causing their mental health problem or had made it worse. Nearly two thirds (64 per cent) reported missing days of work over the last 12 months as a result.

Tellingly nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of respondents stated that their employer was not supportive or understanding to people with mental health issues.

Intolerable and unsustainable

Unite Ambulance Workers Committee chair Debbie Wilkinson said: “The fact that frontline ambulance staff who save lives on a daily basis are suffering such serious levels of stress and mental ill health is both intolerable and unsustainable.

 “It is time for us to care for the carer.

“Unless these problems are taken seriously and tackled then a crisis caused by a lack of ambulance staff will occur.”

Wake up call

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett Thorpe said: “The survey’s findings must be a wake-up call to the sector.

“Unite will use the findings of the report to lobby individual trusts to remove the pressure from workers and tackle the mental ill health epidemic which is afflicting our members.”

The findings of the ambulance staff survey builds on previous surveys undertaken by Unite published last month. This found that 58 per cent of both construction workers and bus drivers and half of lorry drivers (50 per cent) said that working excessive hours had damaged their mental health.


Notes to editors:

 Unite has 100,000 member across the health sector.

For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: [email protected]

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey..