£1.2m cost as ambulance staff sickness soars

Marcus Bailey, chief operating officer at East of England Ambulance Service, has issued a message to

Marcus Bailey, chief operating officer at East of England Ambulance Service, has said one of the main reasons for staff absence is stress and anxiety.  - Credit: Archant

Bolstering staffing numbers in the wake of growing sickness rates has cost the region's ambulance service £1.2m. 

Marcus Bailey, chief operating officer of the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST), said on Wednesday isolation and Covid illness, stress and anxiety and a rise in emergency call outs were among the pressures the trust was facing. 

Performance in May worsened across the board, and Mr Bailey said the rise in serious incidents was an indicator of pressures on health systems locally as well as nationally. 

The trust's risk register warned it was at high risk of failing to deliver a timely response to patients and Mr Bailey said there was a 37pc increase in 999 calls over a 12-week period. 

Mr Bailey told a board meeting:  "I would probably describe it as a more fragile position. As we are moving into this quarter we have seen pressure building both for us and across the system.

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"One is staff absence through wellbeing. We know that stress and anxiety and muscular sclerosis are the main reasons for absence in the trust across all areas.

"I think that's fair to say reflective of pressures the organisation has been under in the last 18 months operationally and also culturally."

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In May, 7.76pc of staff were off sick, including for Covid, with 3.43pc for long term illnesses. 

Mr Bailey told the meeting winter planning has been brought forward to August and that the trust would not be achieving national standards at this time. 

To try to mitigate the risk, one way was by offering staff overtime.

Mr Bailey said: "We are at a stage there are known and intended consequences some of the escalations we are having to take.

"This is about safety, not only to our patients but to our colleagues and also part of our business continuity and resilience as well.

"It is also stress an anxiety and we shouldn't shy away from acknowledging our teams are under pressure and therefore a culmination in there has hence the reason to really focus on increasing our call handling numbers because that is where we need to go."

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