Task force plan to tackle NHS paramedic ‘burnout’ ‘Patient safety at risk’ warns Larrey Society

Thursday, 09 July, 2015


The Government was urged on 7 July 2015 to support a call for a national campaign to tackle the rise in the number of ‘burnout’ cases which is affecting the health and wellbeing of thousands of paramedics every year.

The appeal came from members of The Larrey Society, the cross sector “think tank” for emergency medical services in a special report entitled “The Burnout Issue”.

The report urges all NHS ambulance trusts, independent companies and voluntary organisation to adopt as a matter of urgency a 7-point code of practice on work life balance designed to improve the working environment of all employees in the ambulance service.

The code calls for the setting up of special task forces to plan and implement effective work life style balance policies which can be monitored by the Government’s Care Quality Commission.

The Society is seeking the support for the campaign from the Department of Health as well as 12 organisations - the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, British Red Cross, College of Paramedics, Care Quality Commission, Independent Ambulance Association, Monitor, National Ambulance Resilience Unit, NHS England, Royal College of Emergency Medicine, St John Ambulance, The Ambulance Services Charity and Unison.

In a statement the Larrey Society said: “According to the latest available information both the number of paramedics on stress-related leave and the amount of time taken off have increased dramatically in the last three years. Paramedics in England took a total of more than 40,000 days off in 2014 as a result of stress-related illnesses, up 28% since 2013.

“In recent consultation research, 40% of our members reported that ’burnout’ after training and education and commissioning, was the most important problem facing the ambulance service because its consequences impacted on operational delivery of the service, patient safety, quality & care, team working as well as damaging the health and well-being of individual staff and their families.

“As one member put it:  ‘It is evident through research that a workforce that has high stress levels or are suffering burnout does not deliver good quality patient care, increases the burden onto other staff and the circle begins. Significant numbers of people are suffering from this and the Society has an opportunity to re-address this balance.’”

In its code the Society is calling on all CQC regulated ambulance providers to:


  1. Form a special work life balance task force comprising representatives of management and employees;


  1. Conduct an organisation-wide consultation programme in order to identify the extent that employees and their families are affected by the consequences of ‘burnout’;


  1. Draw up and implement an action plan which includes the introduction of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), management and employee training to recognise early signs of burnout, exit interviews and access to an independent counselling service for employees and their families.


  1. Publicise the plan internally & externally so that all employees, their families and the public at large are confident that work life balance is formally recognised and is being addressed;


  1. Submit the plan to the Care Quality Commission as a benchmark for subsequent review at the end of years 2016, 2017 and 2018.


  1. Include a copy of the plan and subsequent updates, including any CQC comments, in tenders submitted to Clinical Commissioning Groups for NHS contracts.


  1. Ensure all leaders are adequately trained with a professional qualification in leadership from an accredited body (NHS Leadership Academy/Chartered Management Institute/Institute of Healthcare Managers) and that specialised training in recognising employee ‘burnout’ and how they can support their employee better is provided. This should be done in conjunction with a review of policies and procedures.

The statement added: “Paramedics, dispatchers and all ambulance frontline staff are the ‘unsung heroes’ of the healthcare service and they will be required to play a pivotal role within the NHS and inevitably the 24/7 traumatic pressures them face is taking its toll on the health of many of them.

“Simply putting in more money will not solve the problem. Our code seeks to change management attitude on improving the working environment in the ambulance service by taking positive action as a corporate commitment to all employees and the millions of patients they serve every year.”

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