Ambulances crews across the north and north-east of Scotland might go on strike after union bosses confirmed that they will ballot their members over what they have called “scandalous” and “dangerously long” working hours according to reports in the Press & Journal.
Unite, the union that represents paramedics, said that paramedics who are determined to serve the public were having their “goodwill and dedication exploited” by an overstretched service and said the implications of this could be “very serious”.
This potential strike action comes at a time when the emergency services as a whole are having to deal with an increased workload with fewer resources in the wake of what history might describe as one of the most common-sense-defying decisions ever made in relation to the cuts which our emergency services have had to endure.
With an increasing population, that is also living for longer, what numpty would ever think that cutting the budget for the emergency services was EVER going to be a good idea!?
Whilst shifts should last for 12 hours, the union has claimed that one Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) employee in the region had worked 36 hours, while another had been on shift for 23 hours.
Anyone who has worked a shift on the front line of the emergency services will tell you that 12 hours on the job will leave you feeling absolutely exhausted, not only emotionally, but physically as well.
According to the Press & Journal, papers will now be sent out to around 230 ambulance staff in the north division, which includes Grampian and the Highlands and islands, in a consultative ballot that will gauge the feelings of workers on whether or not to strike.
A paramedic source is reported to have told the Press & Journal that the 23-hour continuous shift had been undertaken by a crew based in Lairg in the Highlands, while the 36-hour shift was worked in Tomintoul in Moray.
The source also added that there were around 20 vacancies in the north despite the announcement 5 years ago that an extra 150 ambulance technicians would be recruited across Scotland to provide safe levels of cover.
Changes to the way paramedics work in the area concerned were introduced following the death of 33-year-old Mandy Mathieson, who suffered a cardiac arrest at her home at Tomintoul in 2010.
The village depot is just 800 yards away but trainee technician Owen McLauchlan chose not to respond because he was ‘on a meal break’
(UPDATE: Regarding the above information about a trainee technician being on a ‘meal break’, we have received the following information:
Can I ask that you correct it though as when discussing a previous incident in Tomintoul you have repeated the claim made in the press that the trainee ambulance technician on duty that day choose not to respond to the cardiac arrest call.
This is not the case- at that time the Scottish Ambulance service had a policy of unpaid rest breaks and the only situation where you could be allocated a job during your break was if you had signed a waiver stating you could be disturbed/allocated a job.
The trainee technician you have named had not signed this waiver and in fact never refused to attend the job. Without going into specifics the service initially advised the press that he had refused to attend which only came out when the family of the deceased were allowed to listen to the call made to the station and asked that this fact be made public).
Last night dad Charles Mathieson told reporters from the Press & Journal: “I think there have been some lessons learned since 2010 but my own view is that all public services are underfunded.
“The services have to struggle on and nobody realises the pressure they are under until something goes wrong. “
Ms Mathieson did not get any assistance for nearly 30 minutes as the next nearest crew were around 30 miles away.
Later it emerged that the delay itself did not contribute to her death, but her family led demands to resolve the working hours issue.
Last night, Tommy Campbell of Unite told the Press & Journal that ambulance crews in the north were facing “a crisis” and that the results of a ballot could be “very serious” for the service.
He said: “It is a national scandal that some workers in the area covered by Highland and Islands and Grampian have worked up to thirty-six hours.
“This is unfortunately not an unusual incident and there are many other examples of paramedics working dangerously long hours.
“Unite members, in their determination to serve the public, have had their goodwill and dedication exploited.
“For this reason, Unite will now move to a consultative ballot on industrial action which we hope focuses the minds of Scottish Ambulance Service management.”
Alexander Burnett, the Conservative MSP for Aberdeenshire West, said that the service in the north and north-east was “badly overstretched”.
He said: “It has been clear for some time that the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) in the north and north-east is badly overstretched.
“I think most people would find it incredible that a paramedic would be forced to work for 36 hours straight.
“The SAS, and indeed the SNP government, must address these issues as a matter of urgency. It should not require the threat of strike action from the unions to get management and government ministers to sit up and take notice.”
A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesman told the Press and Journal:
“We are continuing to engage positively with our partners at Unite as we are keen to listen to and respond to any concerns raised by our staff or their representatives.
“We have long-standing arrangements in place to ensure we put patients at the heart of our decision making, whilst balancing the needs and wellbeing of our staff – who do a fantastic job day in, day out caring for patients across Scotland.
“We take this issue extremely seriously, which is why we are continuing to meet with staff and work closely with them to help resolve any issues raised.
“We look forward to working in partnership with our union colleagues to provide the very best service to our patients and staff.”
Written by one of the many admins of Emergency Services Humour who is also a regular blogger in our fortnightly eMagazine ’S__ts & Giggles’ which you can sign up to by visiting our Facebook page and clicking on the ‘sign up’ button or by visiting: ShitsAndGiggles.Online
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