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Unite the Union

09 January 2014

Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust Chief Executive David Whiting said:

“We refute the latest misleading and factually incorrect claims being made by Unite the Union around staff rest breaks and shift patterns.

“Changes to staff rotas and rest breaks have been agreed after a period of consultation with staff and Unison, following a detailed and comprehensive review of our service which took place throughout 2013. They are being introduced following agreement with staff and their representatives and form part of changes we are making to improve our responsiveness for patients and increase operational efficiency.

“Staff welfare is a key priority for the Trust and whilst we have to ensure our staff are available to respond to emergencies we balance this with adequate rest breaks for our staff. The new rotas will improve the allocation of rest breaks and the rest break period will be a minimum of 30 minutes during a 10-hour shift and 45 minutes during a 12-hour shift.

“In addition, the new arrangements will help to reduce shift over-runs and improve access to and allocation of staff training.

“I would like to reiterate that patient care and safety remain at the heart of everything we do.”

Background

Due to a difficult and disappointing working relationship with Unite the Union over a prolonged period of time, a decision was taken by Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust in February 2013 to cease voluntary recognition of the union for the purposes of collective bargaining. The Trust did not receive a constructive contribution to the difficult decisions that it has been required to make for the future, particularly as it sought to maintain high quality care for patients against the realities of the tough economic climate.

Through Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), senior representatives from the Trust have continued to seek on-going dialogue with Unite the Union.

Unite the Union continues to release misleading and factually incorrect information in relation to the essential redesign the Trust is facing and the union’s contribution has been neither constructive nor informed.

Patient Care and Safety

The changes that Yorkshire Ambulance Service is making will further improve the quality and safety of the services we provide. We are committed to continuing to provide responsive and high-quality care to people in Yorkshire and patient care and safety remain our highest priority.

A&E Staffing Profile

The Trust’s A&E Workforce Plan for the next five years mainly focuses upon significantly increasing the number of qualified paramedics and retaining our tier of paramedics with additional clinical skills. During this period there will be a broad range of fully-funded training opportunities for 450 staff to become paramedics, with the ultimate aim of having a paramedic on every frontline emergency vehicle. In addition, we are recruiting an extra 60 people to frontline positions. This plan underpins our commitment to further improving quality and safety at the Trust.

In addition, the Trust has introduced emergency care assistants (ECAs) to work alongside paramedics on ambulances. The ECA is a well-established role used in the majority of other ambulance services to deliver an appropriate level of clinical support to their paramedic colleagues. They have received the required level of training to carry out this role, including emergency ‘blue light’ response driving.

The Care Quality Commission focused, in particular, on the ECA role as part of its recent compliance inspection at the Trust and concluded as follows:

Prior to our inspection we received information of concern about the introduction of a new Emergency Care Assistant (ECA) role within the Trust. The concerns related to the lack of training and inappropriate use of this staff group. We discussed these concerns with the medical director, the lead paramedic for clinical development, the associate director of organisational effectiveness and education, and the acting director of operations. They described how the job description for this role had been based on similar roles which had been introduced in other parts of the country. All staff appointed to this role had undertaken training to enable them to do the job safely and effectively. During our visits to the ambulance stations we spoke with a number of ECAs who told us their training had been good and they felt supported in their role. One ECA said: "The training was really good. It gave me the skills I need to do my job."

The Trust’s plans were developed following extensive consultation and negotiation with staff and unions.

Produced By: Corporate Communications Department