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Unison poll reveals South East Coast Ambulance Service employees are suffering from alarmingly high levels of stress

More than half of Kent’s ambulance staff have experienced sleep problems, anxiety and mood swings because of their work.

The finding comes from a Unison survey of 299 South East Coast Ambulance Service employees; from paramedics to admin staff.

The trade union found that 56% of respondents would describe themselves as being stressed, with a further 26% classing themselves as very stressed.

An ambulance. Stock picture
An ambulance. Stock picture
“The pressure on workers is mounting and the apparent lack of support from their employers means they are suffering in silence." - Tony Jones from Unison

Tony Jones, Unison’s head of health in the south east, said: “The pressure on ambulance staff is reaching dangerously high levels.

“It is unacceptable that the current system doesn’t allow for proper breaks between shifts. Workers have told us they often work 14-hour shifts without a decent break.

“The pressure on workers is mounting and the apparent lack of support from their employers means they are suffering in silence.

“Year after year the levels of stress remain unacceptably high and yet neither employers nor the government have done anything to address this.

“It is no wonder areas such as London are now having to go to the other side of the world to recruit paramedics.”

Long shift hours, staff shortages, the mental demands of the job and a target culture were given as the main reasons for their issues.

As a result 66% of staff said they had experienced sleep problems, with 67% having mood swings and 54% experiencing anxiety.

It had also caused 34% of them to start drinking more alcohol.

Despite the problems only 14% said it is affecting their ability to do their job, although 47% said it sometimes did.

A quarter of employees have taken time off because of the pressure they have put in and 75% have thought about leaving the organisation.

When it comes to supporting a work life balance 66% of staff said they do not believe Secamb does this and 54% were not aware of any measures it had taken to reduce stress.

Secamb employs over 3,600 staff at 110 sites across Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

The online survey was sent to all ambulance members with email addresses and the response rate was 14.8 per cent.

An ambulance spokesman said: “SECAmb takes the welfare of its staff extremely seriously and recognises the stresses a career in the ambulance service places on its employees.

"We treat any concerns raised by staff very seriously and would encourage all staff to be open about how they feel.

"We have a number of mechanisms in place to assist with staff welfare including a contract with an external counselling provider through which the service guarantees to fund a number of session for staff who require them.

“We also have a team of dedicated chaplains available to staff 24/7 and we are in the process of are setting up a new trauma focused peer support network which includes training a number of staff to support their colleagues following traumatic incidents.

"We work hard to support anyone who has had a prolonged period of time off because of stress to find a solution to the issues they are facing.”

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