Lives will be lost warns 999 man
LIVES are being put at risk and the ambulance service in Fife is at breaking point - those are the serious claims made by an experienced ambulanceman.
The long-serving emergency worker told the Press that so-called 'core shifts' in Dunfermline are being dropped as a cost-cutting measure.
He said staff morale is at rock bottom, absenteeism is rising, the controversial issue of meal breaks is unresolved and that health secretary Nicola Sturgeon seems to be unaware of the mounting problems.
The situation has been made worse by the centralisation of hospital services at the Victoria which sees Dunfermline ambulances heading to Kirkcaldy leaving West Fife "empty", he added.
The pressures on the service were highlighted in the Press last week when a 90-year-old Oakley great grandmother had to wait almost four hours for an ambulance.
The ambulance worker, who does not want to be named, said core shifts were not being covered as a cost-cutting measure, leaving provision stretched to breaking point.
He asked, "Is it going to take a death before something is done? The woman waiting four hours isn't an isolated case. This is quite normal but people are reluctant to highlight these issues.
"I am concerned the road they're going down that lives are going to be lost.
"The reason I'm making my feelings known is that I feel that the ambulance service is about at breaking point.
"I can only see this getting worse if they're picking and choosing shifts in June when the financial year has just started. It can only get worse unless the government plunges extra money into it.
"Let's make the public aware of what's exactly going on.
"If the ambulance service don't want to stand up and admit to this then that's tough.
"Somebody's got to have to answer to this.
"Are they going to wait until lives are lost and then say 'We should've covered those shifts'?"
He added there was "a major problem" at the moment with staff morale and sickness levels.
"What normally happens is that any shifts that have to be covered because of sickness or holidays go to workforce planning," he explained.
"Core shifts are the minimum requirements that are safe to work.
"Dunfermline has two ambulances on, say, day-shift every day of the week and that is the minimum they should be working with. They also have an urgent tier vehicle.
"What happened on Sunday is they ran without one person on an ambulance response unit, they ran without the rapid response unit and they ran without an urgent crew.
"That has an impact on the whole of Fife, not just Dunfermline.
"The public in Dunfermline don't realise just how little cover there is in the area.
"What's concerning me is that Nicola Sturgeon addressed parliament and she said that under no circumstances would they be running single-manned or dropping crews through finance, so is she aware of what's going on?
"In the past 10 years I've noticed a rapid decline in the way staff have been treated, the way they seem to be dropping shifts.
"Everybody has to pull in their belt, there's not a bottomless pit of money. However, I feel that the ambulance service are certainly putting lives at risk.
"What's concerning me is that they don't have the guts to stand up and admit to it.
"Staff are still not getting their rest breaks. Staff are still going unreasonable lengths of time without a meal break and this is probably a knock-on effect from dropping shifts.
"If shifts are dropped like on Sunday then staff are going to be outwith their areas and will not get their meal breaks.
"The chief concern is the ambulance service are picking and choosing what core shifts to cover due to financial constraints placed upon managers.
"T in the Park is coming up shortly and for as long as I've worked at T in the Park there's shifts in Dunfermline, Cowdenbeath and Lochgelly all run down then.
"The staff are so peeved that sickness is going through the roof. It's running at 6.7 per cent just now.
"People don't want to be at their work, they're not happy with the terms and conditions. They're going eight to 10 hours without a meal break.
"If I'm turning up to a woman whose mum's been lying on the floor for four hours it's not our bosses that get it in the neck, it's us.
"They're choosing to drop shifts knowing full well there is a risk to the public by the reduction in cover they're allowing to happen."
On the effects of the Victoria A&E centralisation the ambulanceman said, "That has huge implications because when the Queen Margaret was there, if Dunfermline was busy we always had resources coming in from the east.
"You were always going to have crews there if there were treble-9 calls in Dunfermline.
"What's happening now is Dunfermline and Cowdenbeath are all taking patients through to the Victoria which is leaving West Fife empty and it's not as if we're getting other resources coming through to this area because the Queen Margaret's getting used for very little.
"It's not rocket science and the public have to be aware of that.
"They know that all the ambulances are heading through to the Vic leaving
West Fife empty and so how managers can then say we're not covering certain shifts in Dunfermline is beyond me. I can't understand it."
Growing concerns have been taken up by the GMB union's senior organiser for Scotland, Mick Conroy, who is seeking an urgent meeting with the Fife ambulance service.
Mr Conroy said, "Our shop stewards in Fife have raised concerns at the amount of ambulances that are being pulled off and the amount of shifts not being covered.
"Nicola Sturgeon said no services would be cut. Our argument is the Scottish Ambulance Service are using this practice to save money.
"They're putting lives at risk and putting extra stress on the paramedics.
"Morale is rock bottom as it is. Because this is happening it is adding to the problem with rest breaks which has not been resolved yet contrary to what people might think.
"We've called for a meeting with Nicola Sturgeon and we'll be telling her there's still major problems within the Scottish Ambulance Service over rest breaks and shifts not being covered.
"It puts pressure on our members and gives less of a service to the people of Fife."
A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said, "Ambulance response times in Fife continue to be among the fastest in Scotland and average 6.4 minutes for life threatening calls and 7.7 minutes for all emergencies.
"Staff absenteeism in the region is currently at its lowest for some time.
"We are working closely with staff and trade unions and have agreed arrangements in place so that all staff will be moved onto the new working hours by summer 2013 as part of the rest break agreement.
"This includes the recruitment, training and development of an additional 150 staff in Scotland.
"It was very clear to everyone involved in the rest break agreement that a reasonable timescale was required to do this safely and maintain ambulance cover and patient care."
"We monitor the movement of ambulances in relation to hospital admissions on an ongoing basis."
This article appeared in Dunfermline Press 15 Jun 12
Have your say. Post a comment on this article.
Jun 15, 10:28
This is obviously a disgruntled employee/union rep with an axe to grind against the Scottish Ambulance Service and the Scottish Government.
Rather than running to the 'Press anonymously with your scaremongering, go through the grievance procedures and get it sorted.
Yet another 'Press versus NHS/Scottish Government story
Recommend? Yes 22 No 53
Jun 15, 15:45
Johnnyboy, you may be right, but he obviously has a very valid point to make.... waiting 4 hours for an ambulance is completely unacceptable, and something should be done NOW, before any lives are lost. The writing was always on the wall when the decision was made to downgrade QMH, and the people of West Fife (as usual) are the ones to suffer.
Recommend? Yes 42 No 7
Jun 15, 16:29
The weak leadership and incompetent management at NHS Fife need addressed. NHS Fife has the highest percentage of delayed discharges in mainland Scotland; highest GP prescribing costs in Scotland; and highest compensation claims in Scotland. And all the while the directors collect their 6-figure salaries. Disgrace. www.fifepatients.com
Recommend? Yes 32 No 4
Jun 15, 16:50
Jun 15, 22:38
Johnnyboy1 you have no idea how bad it is, the guy is speaking for all sas staff! He just had the !zzs togo to the press. This should have been highlighted ages ago, its not new just worse!
Recommend? Yes 34 No 6
Jun 16, 23:29
NHS Fife is shambolic and Central government forcing the Vic as main Fife Hospital has made things worse .This all combined with cost cutting which seems to affect front line rather than the policy wonks is creating a dangerous situation .
The Vic wasa project management disaster , vacant accomodation at Lyneburn is still boarded up several years after patients discharged ,the management needs to be properly scrutinised and held to account .The millions poured in to NHS have had some improvements but planning resources to meet demand is still poor.Time for some external audit !
Recommend? Yes 22 No 0
Jun 16, 23:30
You'd have to be incredibly cynical to dismiss these incredibly serious allegations as the rantings of "somebody with an axe to grind"
Generally when an employee goes to the press, it's because they have no confidence in the procedures; requesting anonymity as they fear they would victimised/hounded out of their job if they gave their name. It seems eminently sensible what this Ambulance employee has done, maybe Johnnyboy1 is embarassed as he's an Ambulance Service Manager or Civil Servant himself?
Recommend? Yes 25 No 8
Jun 23, 18:39
The ambulance worker, who does not want to be named,
no he wont tell you that they sit eating food before the answer any 999 call.. the scotish ambulance serivce even offered to give them a £100 for any meal they had to throw away.. go on mr ambulance man with no name tell them you would rather have you fish and chips i would sack the one who did not respond to any 999 call
Recommend? Yes 3 No 6