Senior Management within the East of England Ambulance Service have defended themselves after images showed paramedics had been offered money to ‘skip meal breaks’ due to staff shortages, as reported by Essex Echo.
The website reported that staff were being offered £20 to skip their refreshment breaks according to a leaked Mobile Data Terminal (MDT) image given to the Echo by a paramedic working in the area covered by the Mid and South Essex NHS Trust.
The paramedic, who wanted to remain anonymous, added the service was finding it increasingly challenging to respond to more calls with less staff available due to the covid pandemic.
The unnamed source also added that the issue was being exacerbated owing to an ‘exodus of staff leaving the trust’.
Responding to the image, a spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service said the Trust only offered the money to staff who had already taken a refreshment break where a crew member rests while the other stays with a patient.
They said: “During periods of high demand, we may put out a message to our crews with the option to forego a formal meal break if they have had an opportunity to have a refreshment break while waiting to handover patients at hospital.
“This offer is only available for staff who have had some downtime at hospitals and there is no obligation for staff to take up this offer.”
They added: “The service remains under extreme pressure and the public can help us get to the most urgent cases by using NHS 111 service for healthcare advice in non-urgent cases.
“Please continue to call 999 if it’s a life-threatening emergency.”
Glenn Carrington, Branch Chair of the UNISON East of England ambulance branch, said that the NHS is being battered by a “perfect storm”.
While he encouraged all emergency ambulance staff to take breaks during their shifts, he could not blame those who took the money in a highly challenging work environment.
He said: “We’ve been decimated by the pandemic. We’ve got a significant number of staff off with covid, plus the effects of long covid on people have hit us bad.
“You can only do this job for certain amount of time before you think ‘I’ll just stack shelves at Aldi, it’s a lot less hassle.’
“The staff we’re losing are the most qualified people we can’t afford to lose. “It’s a perfect storm, the pressure on our staff is unprecedented.”
He added: “Our advice is to take your breaks but people do strange things when you dangle money in front of them.”
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