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EMAS Chief denies there is a workforce crisis despite high staff turnover and slow recruitment

The chief executive of the region’s ambulance service has denied there is a “crisis” in its workforce despite a rise in staff turnover rates. Read full report. 

East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) reported staff turnover had increased from 11.05 per cent in November 2022 to 11.91 per cent in December.

The number of serious incidents it attended also increased.

As of January 27, 2023 nine serious incidents had been reported in the month, bringing the total reported in the past year to 73, compared to 57 in the same period last year.

It comes as ambulance service staff and union members across the region continue to take part in strike action, demanding better pay and working conditions.

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Service board members questioned senior managers over staff turnover during a meeting on February 7, and were reassured the problem did not signify a crisis.

Perminder Heer, non-executive director at EMAS, said: “Is it a manageable situation or are we heading into more of a crisis at the moment in recruitment?”

Richard Henderson, the chief executive, said there was not a workforce crisis, but it was important EMAS aims to retain registered paramedics to prevent them from leaving for primary care roles.

“We do not want to become a training ground,” he said.

“We have an exec meeting this afternoon where we are considering the workforce plan for 2023/24.

“We will absolutely continue to be recruiting and what we also have at the moment is additional private ambulance service provision which we have in place.

“It is really important as a committee we continue to monitor this but certainly we are not in a workforce crisis.”

An update was also given on the number of hours lost due to ambulance crews being forced to wait outside hospitals amid handover delays.

Paramedics spent more than 27,500 hours waiting outside hospitals to hand over patients in December.

It was the highest number on record, with an average of 888 hours a day lost, or 74 twelve-hour shifts a day.

Mr Henderson said: “Since we last met we all know the significant pressure the health and social care system have been under throughout December.

“I think that has been very well documented nationally about the impact on the ambulance sector and our ability to be able to respond to patients in a timely manner, was certainly compounded by the volume of calls that we experienced and the number of hours that were lost through hospital handover delays.

“So that was a real challenge for us and we know that resulted in some very challenging response standards for the month of December, which was something that was not acceptable.

“What I can say when we moved into January…we have seen an improvement in our response times and we have also seen a continued reduction in hospital handover delays.”

Ben Holdaway, Director of Operations, added: “We lost 16,000 fewer hours in January than we did in December.

“So 27,500 in December, we’ve never seen anything like that before, then in January it was 11,250.

“It is still 11,250 and we must not lose sight of that. It is an average of 363 hours a day, if you turn that into a resource that is an average of 30 twelve-hour shifts still lost in January.

“Although a better position it is something we cannot relax on.”

Sickness levels dropped from the high levels experienced in December, with around 25 to 30 less staff off in January compared to the month before.

The EMAS control room also took 500 extra calls from other services due to demand in December, but this has reduced considerably to “only a handful” in January.

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