Suffolk: Claims paramedics at East of England Ambulance Service were offered enticement

SUFFOLK: Ambulance bosses have been accused of offering staff monetary incentives to work through breaks in a bid to improve failing response times, The Evening Star can today reveal.

A whistle-blowing paramedic claims management “tried to entice staff to work their whole shift without a meal break” in return for a �20 payment because “response times were below the national average” in June.

Department of Health statistics reveal that in June, the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) was the only trust nationally to fail to achieve the 75 per cent standard of Category A calls resulting in an emergency response within eight minutes, achieving 74.8pc.

The EEAST employee pointed to a Unison newsletter, published in July, addressing the payment issue.

In it, branch secretary Gary Applin said over the weekend of June 4 and 5 staff were “offered either by way of an open broadcast or point to point communication” the chance of “forfeiting the legal rights to a meal break for the chance of a guaranteed �20 payment”.

But bosses at the East of England Ambulance Service have denied the payment was to do with response times or that it was in return for staff foregoing their breaks, rather it meant scheduled breaks would be replaced by break times to suit demand.

Mr Applin said as soon as he became aware of the issue on the morning of June 5, he contacted the service’s director of operations Alan Murray, “to express mine and the branch’s concerns”.

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He said: “I stipulated that there had been no contact made with any of the senior staff, there had been no consultation and also no thought as to the impact on the health and safety and well-being of staff. I also expressed my view that the current issues around our Category A eight-minute response standards were not because of any fault of the staff attending the calls.

“I just want to reiterate to all staff and members alike that no-one from the branch was consulted, and even if we had been, we would have said no to the offer as I felt, and the branch feel, this would be to the detriment of our staff’s health and safety well-being, not to mention going against UK Working Time Regulations.”

A spokeswoman for EEAST said the offer was introduced over one weekend due to staffing issues.

“It is not true that staff were offered �20 to forego their break or that any temporary offer was in relation to time targets,” he said.

“Because of staffing issues over one weekend, which have since been resolved, crews were offered the payment if they chose to have their break allocated whenever call volume allowed during their shift instead of the normal practice of being told their break time at the beginning of their shift.

“This was not against any EU or working time directive and was a temporary offer which staff could choose to take up or not but was withdrawn at the Unison secretary’s request as the union wasn’t consulted.”

n Tell us your experiences of the ambulance service. Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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