Belfast Telegraph

£40,000 to train paramedics but no jobs for them in Northern Ireland

By Victoria O'Hara

Paramedics costing over £40,000 each to be trained in Northern Ireland are being forced to leave the Northern Ireland as they are unable to find a permanent job, it has been claimed.

It comes as the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) confirmed the number of new paramedics employed as a permanent full-time member of staff in the last year was zero. The NIAS said the current level of paramedic cover was "as required".

Unions explained paramedics being trained on temporary contracts had been a common practice by the NIAS.

But qualified paramedics told the Belfast Telegraph that during a time when the health service was under intense pressure many were feeling "utter frustration" and were leaving because of the lack of opportunities.

The concerns were raised as it emerged paramedic hours in the province had been cut by almost 10,000 hours within a 10-month period. The figures were obtained by the Belfast Telegraph and relate to the period November 2012 to August 2013.

One paramedic said morale was low among employees on zero hours or temporary contracts.

"There are over 300 permanent jobs being advertised in London," he said. "I know for someone who is single or has little ties here and has been trying to get a permanent job would just go for it.

"I know of several paramedics who have decided to leave because of the situation," he said.

The paramedic explained after completing the course and registering he had to undergo a job interview, along with other eligible students. "This was to become employed by NIAS, even though they just spent £40,000 training each student," he said.

"From this job trawl only a handful of applicants were given permanent contracts, with all other applicants given one-year temporary contracts.

"We were told that we were on a waiting list and this would be activated as and when permanent positions became available." A spokesman for the Unison NIAS branch said: "The NIAS Trust have been employing paramedics for a number of years on temporary contracts to cover the fact that they have not maintained in full the emergency medical technician (EMT) role headcount for five to six years.

"They have continued to advertise paramedic training which will include permanent/temporary and zero hours contracts."

A spokesman for the NIAS said it had not been alerted to any concerns regarding the lack of full-time positions being offered to qualified paramedics.

"The trust has an established number of paramedics required to deliver our service to the population of Northern Ireland," the spokesman said.

Background

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) says the current level of paramedic cover is "as required". Unison has said the NIAS continues to advertise paramedic training which will include permanent/temporary and zero hours contracts. This has led to frustration among some paramedics who want a permanent full-time position. The current number of paramedics in Northern Ireland:

  • 281 full-time permanent
  • 14 part-time permanent
  • 31 full-time temporary

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