The number of paramedics and other ambulance staff leaving the NHS has nearly doubled in four years with thousands more planning to quit imminently.
Poor working conditions and low pay are blamed for the mass exodus with research revealing more than 1,500 paramedics left the ambulance service last year compared with 845 between 2010 and 2011.
Additional findings – also carried out in a separate survey of more than 3,000 ambulance staff by Unite, Unison and the GMB unions – reveal three quarters of paramedics are considering walking away.
Nearly 95 per cent believe their pay does not adequately reflect their responsibilities. A paramedic’s starting salary is £21,692 annually. The full wage of £28,180 is only paid after seven years.
The unions plan to raise these – and other issues around recruitment, retention and staff bonuses – at the NHS pay review body session next week.
The three unions, who together represent more than 20,000 ambulance workers, are calling on the Government to review salaries or face the “catastrophe” of strike action.
They say the low morale in the service could trigger a crisis in the NHS unless the government acts, especially as one in every ten paramedic jobs remains vacant.
Sinking into crisis
“Jeremy Hunt has been ducking and diving while England’s ambulance service has been allowed to sink into crisis,” Unite head of health Barrie Brown said.
“Hardworking ambulance staff and paramedics are voting with their feet and leaving the service. Their pay and conditions don’t reflect the strenuous demands of the job.
“The London ambulance service is already in ‘special measures’ and spending thousands of pounds recruiting paramedics from as far away as Australia and New Zealand.”
Unison head of health Christina McAnea noted, “Paramedics are doing more than ever, and being asked to deal with a growing range of medical emergencies.
“But these skills and responsibilities haven’t been recognised by employers or the government. Ambulance trusts say they haven’t got the cash but the offer last January was from Jeremy Hunt.
“So trade unions will be calling on him to make sure the government keeps their side of the agreement.
“The NHS will rely on its ambulance services as A&E units struggle to cope with winter pressures,” she added. “If the government doesn’t take action, then this crisis could turn into a catastrophe.”