Ambulance crews are not getting enough mental health support Unite has warned, as new figures reveal that one in ten staff at one of the UK’s largest ambulance services have taken time off in the last year because of stress-related causes.
Stressed crews dealing with “daily trauma” are being neglected when it comes to support services Unite said, after data showed that 10 per cent of all staff at the Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) took time off to deal with stress, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or anxiety over the past 12 months.
Leeds paramedic and Unite member Debbie Wilkinson said the mental health of ambulance crews is suffering because they do not have time to talk to colleagues following traumatic call-outs.
Wilkinson, who has been a paramedic for 27 years, told the Yorkshire Post, “A few years ago you got to chat to colleagues between jobs. Now you are doing job after job and you don’t really see colleagues. You haven’t got time for a de-brief.
“You might go to a really traumatic job and then straight on to another. If you get a build up of those then you don’t process it.”
She added, “I’ve been off sick myself. It just gets to a point where it’s a perfect storm. It just becomes too much.
“Work-life balance can be really difficult. We are getting busier and busier. Something has got to give. PTSD is on the increase.”
Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe said that ambulance crews “face daily trauma, sometimes several times a day” and that such exposure inevitably has impact on their well-being.
The union is working with YAS to spot early signs of PTSD and support crew members, Cunliffe said, but there is still “tendency to fail to support staff or to identify a need for help before our members become ill”.
Cunliffe said: “Some Unite members have faced losing their job directly as a result of work-related PTSD and that is unacceptable.
“We shouldn’t make the investment made to train ambulance crew and then throw it away due to a failure to identify a support need.”
The number of days lost to PTSD, stress, depression or anxiety at YAS rocketed to more than 26,000 in 2017/18 – a 19 per cent increase on 2016/17 and the highest figure for at least four years.
On average YAS staff who suffered from these conditions took 46 days off, the data shows.