Ambulance service has worst sickness record in the NHS

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Eight months ago it was named the worst ambulance service for response times – today we can reveal its staff take the most sick days in the NHS.

East Midland Ambulance Service (EMAS) has come under fire again, including from its own staff, after new figures showed it had the worst staff absence of any NHS body.

In the month of September the service, which covers Northamptonshire, had an absence rate of 7.11 per cent.

The figure equates to almost 250 of the body’s 3,500 staff being off sick every day of the month.

Chief executive Phil Milligan said: “We are conscious that we have a higher than usual sickness rate and some reasons for that include musculo-skeletal injuries or stress due to the nature of the calls we respond to.

“We are reviewing our occupational health service to ensure that we are providing the right support, help and advice and that we can get staff back to work quickly.”

In a document published last summer, the service said almost a third of referrals to the occupational health service were because of musculo-skeletal injury.

The second most common reason is mental health issues including depression.

A paramedic based in Kettering said the high sickness rate was down to increased workload.

The worker, who asked not to be named, said: “The amount of call-outs we are expected to get to has spiralled out of control over the past three to four years.

“Staff are doing 12-hour shifts without having time to stop.

“The problem is that since we joined the service in 2006 we are being sent on jobs so far away.

“It is stretching out what limited resources we have already and the staff are struggling to cope.”

Last June it was revealed that the service was the slowest for response times in the country after figures showed crews reached 72.4 per cent of category A calls within the eight-minute target.

The paramedic said: “We’re probably still the worst.

“Having staff off means people in work are having to work twice as hard.

“This impacts performance.”

The service has a sickness absence target of five per cent, but has not achieved that for the past three years.

Kettering General Hospital had a 4.35 per cent absence rate.

Northamptonshire Teaching PCT had a 3.67 per cent rate and Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS had a 4.39 per cent rate.

Yesterday it was revealed the service was spending £8m on a new fleet of 80 vehicles which can cater for people weighing up to 50 stone.