Friday, January 06, 2012

The first two items on Reporting Scotland tonight

1 The worrying kidnapping of Red Cross aid worker Khalil Dale in Pakistan. The profile showed someone who has spent his whole life working in war zones. He had taken part in a BBC documentary where he talked of watching people starve to death in Somalia. Let's hope he is released safe and well, soon.

2. And I'll accept that my reaction to this second story is exacerbated in the context of the above. Ambulance workers have turned down a settlement which would have given them a one-off payment of £1500 then £100 every time their meal breaks were disturbed by a call out. These discussions came about because of the death of Tomintoul woman Mandy Mathieson from a heart attack. The ambulance called for, even though it was not far from her house didn't leave till the staff has finished their break.

I have to say I find that one hard to understand. I barely had a lunch break in the 4 years of my last job, simply because that's when people tended to come in to see me because that's when they were available. It was just how things were. I have no doubt I could have asked them to wait, but that didn't seem right especially as most people had serious, stressful issues to deal with.

It makes me wonder what life as ambulance crew is like if they can turn down what appears to be a generous offer. Is there an unpleasant management style in the Service? What lies behind it? I had a look at the rates of pay for paramedics and I have to say I was surprised that they earned so little given the level of skill they have to have and the diverse range of trauma, from heart attacks to delivering babies to horrendous road accidents they deal with. They seem to get between 21 & 34 thousand, but that higher figure is only for senior paramedics.

I am not sure it's wise, though, for ambulance staff to conflate the meal break issue with other grievances. If more lives are lost, the public will find it hard to sympathise with the service. However, flexibility on this will reassure the public and more likely win support for the other stuff. In an emergency, every minute matters. Nobody knows that more than paramedics. If they show no flexibility on this, they put lives at risk. That's the bottom line.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


cynicalHighlander said...

Could of been worse!

Unknown said...

Oh, CH, you are such a cheery soul-)

cynicalHighlander said...

As long as you take in the capacity it was posted as the ambulance situation beggars belief that another person wants paid extra to help a fellow person in distress.

Unknown said...

Are you saying we actually agree here?

Andrew Hickey said...

I can actually see the ambulance workers' point here,having worked in the NHS myself.

When you work in the NHS, you will often be asked to do something above and beyond your job description because of a special case. The problem is that that special case becomes the new norm. There's meant to be six staff on in the morning but one day someone phones in sick and you can't get a replacement, so you get on with it, and then soon only five staff in the morning is the norm, because you've shown you get on with it. And then one day someone phones in sick...

I've seen the end results of processes like that. On the ward I worked on we once got a call from the ward downstairs, because there was only *one* member of staff left, and that was a new, untrained temp nursing assistant who wasn't qualified to administer drugs. We had eighteen beds on our ward, but in the last few months I worked there never had fewer than twenty-one patients (you figure out how to cope with nineteen patients on an eighteen bed ward because you need to for an emergency, and then that becomes the new normal).

If there aren't enough ambulance crews on to cover breaks, then the ambulances are being mismanaged. And I can easily see the ambulance crew believing that allowing the precedent to be set would lead to a permanent lowering of staffing levels - which is undoubtedly what would happen - and which would be bad both for patients and for the ambulance staff.

Anonymous said...

I sort of agree with Andrew Hickey. In that there is probably a lot of mismanagement in the NHS.
The other thing is that in the NHS, you can never tell when your break is going to be because people are always getting injured or needing an ambulance. The NHS and ambulance service needs to be better serviced so people can have their breaks.


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