Warning on stress among paramedics
The number of sick days taken by frontline ambulance staff due to stress has risen by 40%, newly released figures reveal.
Pressured frontline workers, such as paramedics and technicians, took 41,300 days off due to "stress-related illness" in 2014 compared with 29,400 the previous year.
The College of Paramedics said it was "extremely concerned" by the increase.
Its executive officer, Martin Berry, said: "The College of Paramedics is extremely concerned about the reported rise in stress-related illness seen across England's ambulance staff.
"Paramedics are on the front line, managing an unprecedented rise in demand upon the UK ambulance services - a rise worsened by other struggling community healthcare services causing patients to seek help through the accident and emergency services.
"There has been poor investment and workforce planning into the training and development of new paramedics over recent years, resulting in a national shortage which adds to the demands placed upon those currently in practice.
"The College of Paramedics believes there needs to be a significant increase in investment into the education and development of paramedics, ensuring more of these vital and highly trained healthcare professionals are out in practice."
An investigation by 5 News also revealed a 28% increase in ambulance staff taking leave due to stress.
A total of 2,400 ambulance staff took stress-related leave in 2014 compared with 1,900 the previous year, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
The total number of stress-related sick days taken in 2014 was 71,400, up 28% from the previous year.
Stuart Gray, a London paramedic and author of A Paramedic's Diary, Life And Death On The Streets, said: "The stress of my job has caused me to go down with physical illnesses on several occasions.
"We are continually hammered from the moment we sign on duty until we make our weak attempts to get home on time.
"There is virtually no respite now. The biggest stress is being asked to deal with things that are clearly not emergencies.
"Everybody and his dog wants, or thinks they need, an ambulance. So we are constantly responding under emergency conditions to those who've drunk too much alcohol or who've been nursing a cough for two weeks.
"My colleagues are tired and depressed. They are leaving the profession, or going to places where there is still hope for pre-hospital care."
A London Ambulance Service spokesperson said: "London Ambulance staff work very hard to care for our patients and we are under pressure due to an increase in demand from Londoners.
"We have launched the largest national and international recruitment campaign in the London Ambulance Service's history, with over 200 new frontline staff joining us before the end of March. We have plans in place to recruit a further 800 more staff during 2015/2016.
"Whilst we take these steps we ask Londoners to help us by only calling us in a genuine emergency."
A North East Ambulance spokeswoman said: "Our staff are our biggest asset and we have a duty to protect their health and well-being. The better we look after our staff, the better care they can provide for our patients.
"The nature of our business is that staff at the frontline may have to walk into unknown and often traumatic situations and respond under pressure. What compounds this is a rise in the number of assaults on our ambulance staff."