Belfast Telegraph

We've no confidence in bosses, Northern Ireland Ambulance Service staff say

By Victoria O'Hara

Overstretched staff and low morale among ambulance workers have led to a union calling for an inquiry into how the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) is managed.

Unison made the call following a vote of no confidence by the union branch of the NIAS in the Ambulance Service Trust Board, its chief executive officer and directorship on August 6.

According to Unison, among the major issues that need to be addressed are:

  • Lack of resources to meet demand.
  • Fear of disciplinary action.
  • Lengthy waits to hand over patients at emergency departments.

In a statement, a spokesman from Unison said: "Morale amongst the operational and control staff is at an all-time low, with members stating that they feel so overstretched and physically and emotionally drained that they don't know how long they can continue in this vein.

"Ambulance crews frequently have to care for patients whilst standing in queues at hospital A&E departments.

"They can often be left in corridors for hours looking after these patients, often long after their shift has finished, or during their shift, when they are due or overdue for a meal break." Unison claimed a yearly increase of approximately 5% per year in demand in the service had not been matched by an increase in ambulances to meet it.

"The number of ambulances has actually been decreased in order to meet efficiency savings," the statement said.

"This has resulted in the existing staff having to work harder, attending more 999 calls and having less or no 'down time' between 999 calls.

"This leads to increased levels of stress and fatigue amongst staff."

The NIAS said it was "surprised" by the Unison move.

"The trust is surprised at this development given that in recent weeks we have been engaged in a joint two-day workshop and subsequent joint consultative negotiating council meeting with the unions to seek resolutions to issues of concern.

"There was no indication at either of these that this was a potential course of action.

"The trust will seek to engage with Unison, to discuss these issues, at the earliest opportunity," it said.

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