'Excessive work and dwindling support'

TUC Congress 2023: Unite delegate Alan Dobbie speaks out on burnout in the NHS

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Unite delegate Alan Dobbie spoke in support of a composite on working hours and burnout on the second day of TUC Congress on Monday (September 11).

Alan, a health worker, highlighted how he had begun work at the North Middlesex Hospital 26 years ago, and how as a frontline equalities rep, he’s seen the impact of burnout first-hand.

“I’ve seen what it does to health workers – and what it means for patients,” he said.

Alan highlighted research showing that over half of ambulance drivers face burnout brought on by “excessive work – and dwindling support”.

He noted how they have to face response times that can’t be made as they queue for hours outside hospitals, with meal breaks becoming a thing of the past amid a “treadmill of never-ending shifts”.

“It’s a brutal process of being devalued and dehumanised – with drivers considered little more than dots on a screen,” he said, adding that the “human toll is all too real”.

“I can think of no worse indictment than the fact ambulance drivers are now considered a ‘high risk’ group for suicide in health literature,” Alan went on to say. “This abuse of our health workers obviously has an impact on patients.”

He spoke of ambulance crews “who cannot get to patients quickly – and are left without backup when they need it” and mental health nurses who are “stretched beyond their abilities to provide basic patient care”.

“This fuels the retention crisis which has plunged the health service into a staffing crisis,” Alan went on to say, praising the composite for recognising “the structural reasons behind burnout”.

“It isn’t only about workloads going up, it’s about resource, funding and pay going down,” he added. “We need to care for our carers – with burn out strategies and access to mental health support.

“But we must deal with the cause as well as the symptoms — fair pay and restorative funding.”

Urging support for the composite, Alan closed by sending solidarity to all members in dispute.

The composite was carried.

By Hajera Blagg

Photo by Mark Thomas