Ambulance staff balloted for strike action over 'dangerously long' shifts

11 September 2018, 13:03 | Updated: 11 September 2018, 13:05

HART Paramedics

Ambulance staff are being balloted for industrial action after a union claimed one staff member had worked for 36 hours on a single shift.

Leaders of the Unite trade union hit out at the "dangerously long working hours" being undertaken by personnel in the north division of the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS).

While shifts should last for 12 hours, the union claimed one SAS employee in the region - which covers both the Highlands and Islands and Grampian - had worked for three times this, while another had been on shift for 23 hours.

Tommy Campbell, Unite regional office, said it was a "national scandal" that some in the service were working such long hours, claiming paramedics who want to serve the public are being "exploited".

The union is to carry out a consultative ballot on industrial action among its members in the SAS in the north division, prompted by what it describes as "the scandal of long hours and inadequate service provision".

It claims such "extreme shifts overruns" can cause stress and tiredness amongst workers, adding that "excessive vacancies" are leading to staff having to work overtime.

A survey of ambulance workers in Scotland carried out by Unite in 2017 found more than half (54.3%) were suffering from stress.

As well as this 94.5% said morale in the force had worsened, with 91.4% warning staffing levels were insufficient and 90.4% complaining of fatigue.

Mr Campbell said: "It is a national scandal that some workers in the area covered by Highland and Islands and Grampian have worked up to thirty-six hours.

"This is unfortunately not an unusual incident and there are many other examples of paramedics working dangerously long hours.

"Unite members in their determination to serve the public have had their goodwill and dedication exploited.

"For this reason, Unite will now move to a consultative ballot on industrial action which we hope focuses the minds of Scottish Ambulance Service management."