Poll warns of 'stressed' paramedics
More than nine out of 10 ambulance workers say the demands of the job are causing them to suffer from stress, according to a survey.
Long hours and staff shortages are stretching paramedics to the limit, the research by Unison said.
Its poll of nearly 3,000 workers found that three quarters (74%) are suffering from sleep problems, 72% said they feel irritable as a result and experienced mood swings, and more than half (56%) are gripped with anxiety.
Nearly two in five (38%) said they have had to take time off sick because of work-related stress and a quarter (26%) admitted they were close to doing so.
As a result of pressures on the service and workers, four out of five (82%) said they have thought about leaving the job.
The union said it is concerned that employers are not fulfilling their duty of care as more than half of the respondents said they were unaware of any steps being taken by their employer to remove or reduce stress.
One paramedic spoke of how hospital closures meant they now have to drive hundreds of miles every day.
"Too few ambulances, missed meals and 16 or 17 hour shifts would stress anyone," he said.
Others described being tearful, suffering with migraines, post-traumatic stress disorder and exhaustion.
Unison head of health Christina McAnea said: "Working in emergency services is stressful but 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.
"Higher call out rates and lengthy waits outside A&E departments are adding to the problem. It is clear that the pressure caused by government funding cuts is having a huge impact on staff and on patient safety.
"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."