Ambulance Watch: 999 trust spends £100k on ‘golden hello’ payments to new paramedics

East of England Ambulance Service technician and paramedic with a stretcher.

East of England Ambulance Service technician and paramedic with a stretcher. - Credit: Evening News © 2009

Bosses at the region's under-staffed ambulance service have pledged to review their recruitment policy after spending more than £100,000 on 'golden hello' payments to new front-line staff last year.

The East of England Ambulance Service paid the incentives to 59 qualified paramedics in 2013 to try and resolve the organisation's staff shortage. However, five of the new recruits had to repay the £2,000 golden hello payments after leaving the trust, according to new figures.

The NHS trust, which launched a recruitment campaign last year to hire 231 paramedics and specialist paramedics, paid £106,909 in golden hello payments last year, according to figures from a freedom of information request by the EDP.

Anthony Marsh, the new chief executive of the ambulance service, launched a recruitment campaign to hire 400 student paramedics last month, which has so far received more than 2,000 applications.

However, the organisation is still offering the £2,000 incentive to qualified paramedics and relocation expenses of up to £8,000, according to their advertised roles on the NHS Jobs website.

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The payments were introduced in November 2012 and are only being offered for paramedic positions.

Denise Burke, prospective parliamentary candidate for North Norfolk and Act on Ambulances campaigner, called on the trust to put a stop to the golden hellos.

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'I would not want to endorse the practice because it is very much a private sector way of head hunting. People are not necessarily coming here because they want to work for the East of England Ambulance Service and they are being more attracted to the sweeteners.'

Other ambulance trusts in London, East Midlands, West Midlands, and South West are not offering the sweeteners for their paramedic vacancies on the NHS Jobs website.

Tony Hughes, regional coordinator of the GMB union added: 'We are not totally against them. They should be based on making sure they are not out of pocket, but not just a sweetener to make it more attractive for them to join.'

A spokesman for the EEAST said the organisation was looking to improve the care it provides to patients and speed up responses by taking on student paramedics, qualified front-line staff and improve the skills of existing staff.

'A total of 59 paramedics were recruited in 2013 using the incentive scheme. Whilst we are recruiting 400 student paramedics, we will review the need to continue to offer this incentive.'

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