Ambulance staff ‘leaving the service in droves’

7 May 19

The Labour party has revealed that alarming numbers of ambulance staff are leaving their jobs because of rising work levels and poor morale.

Official figures, including managers, qualified and support staff, showed that 33,141 ambulance workers have quit the NHS since October 2010, so that ambulance services in England are now short of almost 1,000 staff.

The London Ambulance Service was worst affected, with more than 4,000 staff leaving. The total annual number of ambulance staff leavers increased by 80% between 2010-11 and 2017-18 with a record 5,002 leaving their jobs in 2016-17.

The findings follow an earlier Labour report revealing that more than 200,000 nurses had left the NHS since 2010 and a 55% increase in voluntary resignations over the same period.

Jonathan Ashworth, shadow health and social care secretary, said that the government had promised to publish a ‘workforce implementation plan’ in July 2018, alongside a 10-year plan, but that it had failed to materialise and was urgently required.

He said that Labour was committed to restoring continuing professional development budgets to 2013-14 levels, an investment of approximately £330m. The party, in government, would legislate for safe staffing levels and re-introducing nurse bursaries and funding for health-related degrees. There would be a staff wellbeing strategy, including the creation of board level NHS workforce wellbeing guardians.

Labour would provide work visas to anyone who had a job offer in the NHS at whatever level and expand the Medical Training Initiative. It would reform and properly resource the apprenticeship levy and create a schools work experience bureau.

The party would support the roll-out of an e-rostering scheme, as pioneered at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, reducing reliance on junior doctors. It would guarantee training and re-skilling for staff impacted by the coming wave of automation, AI, robotics and digitisation.

Ashworth said that the retention and recruitment crisis in the NHS followed nine years of “Tory mismanagement and cuts”, with patients often “left stranded waiting longer and longer for an ambulance to arrive”. He commented: “Investing in staff so the NHS becomes the best employer possible will be at the heart of Labour's workforce plan.”

Adam Brimelow, director of communications at NHS Providers, said that resourcing the ambulance service and preventing shortages should be a “key priority”.

He commented: “We need to ensure that ambulance staff feel valued respected and supported in fulfilling their crucial role. For this, as for the wider NHS workforce shortages, we need a clear plan, the right decision on NHS education and training budgets in the forthcoming spending review and a recognition that this is going to take several years to solve.” 

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