Fifth of ambulance staff get stress-linked sickness.
Byline: Michael Muncaster Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org @MichaelMjourno
ONE in five ambulance workers in the North East took stress-related sick days in the last financial year.
Figures reveal 22% of staff at the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS), including paramedics and healthcare assistants, took days off for that reason in 2016-17.
The GMB union raised concerns over its members' welfare, saying staff were overworked and underpaid.
Nationally, one in eight workers took a total of 80,000 stress-related days off in 2016-17.
GMB national officer Kevin Brandstatter said: "These disturbing figures prove that our front-line ambulance workers are in the midst of a stress and anxiety epidemic.
"They are consistently overworked, underpaid and expected to do incredibly difficult jobs, such as dealing with the aftermath of the Grenfell disaster or Manchester bombings, without adequate staff or resources.
"Workforce numbers haven't kept pace with sharply rising demand."
Mr Brandstatter added: "The absences caused by staff shortages and overwork are already contributing to potential delays in attending incidents.
"If any patients lose their lives as a result, the blame falls fairly and squarely on an uncaring Tory government for not dealing with stress and anxiety of our front-line emergency staff."
In July, figures showed the NEAS recorded a sickness absence rate of 6.7% in 2016/17, with mental health problems such as anxiety and stress being the most common reason.
The numbers mean that on any given day during that time period, an average of one NEAS staff member in around 15 was absent. The rate in the North East has risen from 6.2% in February 2010 and is now the highest in the country. The NEAS said its absence rates reflect of the physical and mental demands placed on its hard-working staff on a daily basis.
A spokesman said: "Their health and well-being is of the utmost importance and we are working hard to reduce sickness absence across the trust.
"We have an in-house occupational health team who support our employees and signpost them to appropriate services, including physiotherapists, doctors and clinical psychologists. They also carry out a vaccination programme, including the annual flu vaccine.
"We have also established a group of 30 Blue Light Champions, trained in supporting their peers, as part of our involvement in the Mind Blue Light Network, and we have established a debriefing system to ensure front-line employees are given support immediately after a difficult incident."
"Our work to invest in our employees recently led to us being one of only three ambulance services to receive Investors in People accreditation."
Ambulance workers are experiencing a stress and anxiety 'epidemic', according to the GMB union