Student paramedics in pay dispute with East of England Ambulance Trust
- Credit: Archant Norfolk
Student paramedics at the region's ambulance trust are calling for action over the delay to their training, and the subsequent financial impact.
Problems last year with university course accreditation meant some students faced completing their training a year late – which has caused them to miss out on extra pay.
East of England Ambulance Service Trust today said affected students will progress to the paramedic pay banding from the moment they should have qualified, but a union warned this compensation did not go far enough.
The problems started last year when student paramedic courses at the University of East Anglia and Anglia Ruskin University failed to secure accreditation, meaning some students couldn't start their course.
Those issues have since been resolved, but it has resulted in some student paramedics qualifying up to a year later.
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One student, who did not want to be named, said: 'We kept getting told the university course would start in a few months, then it was in another few months – and this went on and on for nearly a year.
'In the meantime planning any annual leave or time with my family was impossible.
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'The worst part was that not only was our development on hold during this time, but we were also mentoring and supporting first-year students as lead clinicians on ambulances, signing off their clinical skills for example, despite only having been in the service for a year.'
The student said the delay to their training meant they now had to wait two years after qualifying to be eligible for promotion to 'senior paramedic' under new national guidance, rather than one year – which was previously the case.
The students, via Unison, submitted a formal grievance to the trust over the training delay and pay inequality, which Unison said should entitle them to a hearing with a senior manager.
In a statement today, EEAST said it had worked with Unison to resolve the issues through 'partnership arrangements which did not necessitate a hearing' and that it considered all elements of the grievance to be resolved.
'Given the value we place on supporting our staff, we are pleased to confirm that for those student paramedics who have been affected by this specific issue, the trust has agreed they will progress to the paramedic pay banding (band 5) from the point they should have qualified,' a spokesman said.
'This means those staff will not miss out on any extra pay as a result of the delays.'
But Unison said this measure did not go far enough.
Fraer Stevenson, Unison branch secretary, said: 'Student paramedics are still facing pay inequality and a significant detriment because of the delays to their training.
'The trust may feel that all elements of the students' grievance has been resolved. Unison and the students do not agree.
'The right thing to do is to provide the students with a hearing date and to treat them in a fair and equitable manner.'
Students urged to sign open letter
Students affected by the delays have been urged by Unison to sign an open letter to EEAST chief executive Robert Morton calling for action. It is not known how many students have been affected by the delay – but it is likely to be more than 100.
The letter calls for Mr Morton to arrange a hearing in response to the grievance, which was raised in April.
Part of it reads: 'The collective grievance policy states a hearing should take place within 49 days of submission and this has not happened.' HR have made their views clear so we're asking you to arrange a hearing and to commit to treat us fairly.'
In its statement, EEAST said: 'We recognise the impact that the delays in student paramedic training has had on our staff, through no fault of their own.
'While these delays were out of the control of EEAST, as they were a result of the time taken for universities to gain the required accreditation, we do recognise it has taken some time to resolve this matter.
'Students also have to complete placements outside of the ambulance service as part of gaining broader skills. These placements have to be arranged with agreed capacity balanced against all other education programmes requiring similar placements.'
Have you been affected by the delays in training?