For the first time *ever*, ambulance crews are going to have rest breaks.

For too long we have been working 12 hours a day without a break.  Sure, we may be able to sneak a cup of tea at hospital, but if you take longer than half an hour to unload patient, handover to nurse, clean and restock the ambulance and finish your paperwork so that the patient can’t sue you, then we often get asked if we could ‘green up’ for another call.  Trust me when I say that it can easily take longer than half an hour to do all the above.

We rarely get to see our station, too many people call us and we simply don’t have enough ambulances to deal with all the drunks, cut fingers and coughs and colds that we get sent to.

European legislation means that we should all get a short ‘rest break’.  If you work for 12 hours, is it really too much to ask for a half hour break at some point?

Apparently it is too much to ask for ‘The Sun’.

Some journalist, who can no doubt have plenty of cups of tea during her day, decides to attack our service for (a) following the law, and (b) treating it’s staff like human beings who need feeding and watering.

It can be hard work on an ambulance, while a lot of our work is fairly simple, there are days when, not only are you run ragged, but you also have a string of tricky jobs.  Why shouldn’t we be like everyone else and get a break.  The police have meal-breaks, nurses have meal-breaks, doctors have meal-breaks and the fire service have meal-breaks (if I were being uncharitable I say that the fire service have occasional breaks in their meals for work).

So why should we be any different?

We make enough sacrifices for this job – shift work knocks years off your life, wrecks your health and social life.  We go into dangerous situations on a daily basis, get beaten up and sit in enclosed spaces with infectious patients.  We also don’t get paid enough considering how the government keeps expecting us to hold together the tatters of the NHS.  Until we got breaks we would also be eating unhealthily, wolfing down fast food between jobs, so physical fitness is a concern for us – gym memberships are a waste of money when you work half the time they are open.

So ‘The Sun’, rag that it is, wants us to work like robots.  Instead they should ask why, despite meeting targets,despite an annual increase in calls, despite being told we should cover the shortfall in GPs and A&Es the government has taken money away from us.  Ask why we can’t have more ambulances?  Ask why we have to go to people who have stubbed their toe, got a wart on their foot or have ‘man-flu’?  Ask why, after dark, it’s us and the A&E departments against the world as all the psychiatric teams, social workers and care home staff vanish along with the sun.

Maybe that would be proper journalism.

I’m already hearing about crews getting abused due to this article, one person reports being shouted at while having a sandwich, while another received abuse from a patient with a cut finger (needing only a plaster) – all because they think we should be running around ‘saving lives’.  It only needs someone to abuse me on this subject and they would get a lecture on how you shouldn't believe everything that you read in your chip wrapper.

In reality meal-breaks won’t make much difference in responding to emergency calls, it just means that the ‘stubbed toe brigade’ will have to wait half an hour for their free taxi to hospital, while true emergency calls will be covered as well as they are at present.  Being able to have a protected break may also mean crews will  be refreshed, meaning that they will ‘green up’ that bit faster, improving our response to those genuine calls.

57 thoughts on “Meal-Breaks”

  1. This is the first time I have posted anything here although I have been reading the blog for a long time. Personally, if my life were in danger and I needed an ambulance I would prefer the crew to be rested, fed and watered and working at 100% than exhausted and only thinking about getting through this job so they can return to station and grab a bite to eat. If the government concentrated more on doing something about the time wasters than harassing NHS staff perhaps we would see an improvement. (My boyfriend works in an ambulance in Madrid, reading this blog has helped me understand what he has to put up with, last week they got called to a 21 year-old female with a paper cut!! I don't know how you manage to stay patient with these people!)

  2. It's one of my big bugbears, that children aren't taught about their bodies except to be told to wear condoms. There should be a first aid course taught, and CPR should be mandatory.But, well, when half the kids leave school with a reading age of 8, some people may suggest that it isn't a high priority…

  3. I would agree with you, except that 'autonomously fitting in food', while workable in the past, is no longer possible with the sheer number of calls that we get, and that we are watched upon from on high by a group who's only desire is to get us to 'green up' as quickly as possible to hit our government targets.And this is why we need enforced meal-breaks.

  4. You are exempt? Why?(Although a lot of jokes about DSO's and work springs to mind…*grin*)

    And the complicated rules that we have are, in my guess, there to allow people to game the system and gain their money back.

  5. OMG reading this has made me so angry… I knew that u had to grab a cup of tea etc where you could, but I had no idea that you did not have official breaks!Its incredable that you lot have had to work so long without what we all take for granted, and even more incredable that people would get snotty when finally its put right.

    What would happen if you all thought enoughs enough and walked away from the job? And why does it seem that the people we need the most are always treated the worse.

  6. A quick query on all these points you make about patients who don't really need medical attention (e.g. the chap with the cut finger who only needs a plaster). How do you feel, as a person in the profession, about calls for such patients (especially drunks) to be charged for the time and resources they use unnecessarily? Mike Nutworth

  7. OF COURSE you deserve your breaks.It doesn't help that the Sun apparently got an insider to say it was a bad idea to make your breaks sacrosanct. It seems to me that the Sun is playing on the feeling that we (Joe Public)get that an emergency makes normal considerations like meals, cups of tea unnecessary. If my daughter cuts her knee the dinner can wait. It is no good thinking like this, though, if your entire life is spent solving emergencies. I can DELAY the dinner – I don't have to go without every day.

    It's well known that “an army marches on its stomach” so why not other frontline troops? There'd be uproar if the army was expected to dash to MacDonalds for their lunch.

  8. Those comments from the Paramedic “who does not wish to be named” have got to be made up. Either that or he only entered the job yesterday because he's just too enthusiastic about his job – no sane person wants to work 12 hour shifts with no break. And whats this about “not being allowed” to help anyone if you're on your break? He makes it sound like other ambulance services “opted out” of the directive so that they won't be held against their will on a break while some poor person dies just outside the door. And he makes it sound like the LAS are lazy and they're all going to take their break at exactly the same time and put a “DO NOT DISTURB” sign on the door and leave people to die. Surely the whole point of this is that your break time is protected which means there has to be other ambulance crews available to cover for you while you have your well deserved break of only 30 minutes. What's 30 minutes?Well said Vort1gern. Unfortunately some people believe this kind of fiction – the same people who have trouble realising that soaps are not real.

  9. Sigh – this is why blogs are good!Sort of evens things up but too many people are easily brainwashed and dont think.

    I'd have thought it would be dangerous to be making life saving (or not) decissions whilst shaking from hunger and tiredness. I used to struggle doing a 7 hour shift if our break times where messed up, cant imagine 12 hrs without a break 🙁

    How can people expect you to not have breaks thats ludicrous!

    apologise for any iffy spellings

  10. Don't let it get to you. It is just selective reporting, and “Ambulance Meal Breaks Will Cost Lives” is a much better headline than “Crews Have Staggered Meal Breaks So That Vehicles Remain Available For Tasking” – which is, of course, the WHOLE story. Furthermore, you're only giving the article more than a passing glance because it contains the word “ambulance”, and because you work in the industry. Most readers will skip idly through the story, then move on to the next one – because that's what we all do.”Today's Headlines Are Tomorrow's Chip Wrappers” is a good headline too. What was the lead story on the first page of the Sun this time last week? I'll bet you can't remember, and that you care even less!!

  11. Its nots so much that they print this rubbish, its that people believe whats in the paper verbatim. Its not like the whole LAS are goin to take a break at the same time is it!Remember what the printed under the headline “The Truth” in April, 1989… This paper has no shame.

  12. Ok Tom,I want you to take a deep breath in, and out, good boy.

    The Sun is a comic, its readers (I use the term loosely) only look at the pictures.

    Sadly a large proportion of your clientele will be made up of Sun readers; this is because those of us with half a brain in our heads don't phone 999 for a stubbed toe.

    Rest assured we love you and your colleagues and respect your commitment to the god-awful job you do for us.

    Now go hug Laura and youll feel better.

  13. A whole half hour? Out of 12? And 2/3rds of it unpaid (If I'm reading Ms. Morton's article correctly)? This is what people are getting upset about?Of course, the whole point of the article is to get people riled up. I'm not sure if the facts of the matter actually enter into it. I have to say that on my part it's working, though not in the way I think the author intended…

    People can get very sanctimonious when asking others to sacrifice what they themselves are loath to give up.

    PS- I'm a longtime reader. Love the blog!

  14. In scotland we use to have to book of sick in order to get fed within a 12 hour shift. It was the only way control would give us downtime – 20 mins. On my station it was usually when our blood shugar levels fell below 3. Sad i know but it gave you a measurable cause for feeling like you needed something to eat.Now we get 2 breaks of 25 and 20 minutes in a 12 hour period. They will never be able to aford to buy this time of me. It makes such a diference to how you feel. of course these breaks very rarely happen within the “windows” allocated, so you are automatically out the system after this ends.

    As for cover, in a perfect world. usually what happens is that all the 7 o'clock crews reach 12 o'clock without a break so are out the dispatch system at the same time. Control seem to manage this by downgrading the piss calls.

    Some of agenda for change is good.

    As for the medic interviewed – he cant exist. This is such blatent cr** that it's not an interview, just make believe. Unless he's in management — just thought of that.

  15. So who was this paramedic insider then, do they exist? I could say something rude about husband beating chavs but I'd better not.

  16. I personally think its about time the British public gave this government the boot before it utterly destroys everything the UK has held dear for many years – there's a definite trend here, where they appear to be creating the environment for chaos to reign perhaps in some vain notion that at some point they can rise up and pretend it wasn't all created by them, but where they can then wade in to 'save' us all so we'll continue to keep them in power. Look at the issue with alcohol – despite dozens of doctors and other med professionals giving numerous interviews about how they're seeing a scary rise in alcoholism amongst the youth, what does the government do in its wisdom – only increases opening hours thereby increasing the scale of the problem. They banned smoking which in some ways possibly doesn't kill half as many young people as alcohol does and since they know they're never going to ban the latter, why perpetuate a drinking culture. And their attitude to the NHS is the same – run it into the ground, until we're forced to accept whatever fascist solution they come up with to 'save' it!! Give me a break! And likewise – you too – you take your breaks and fight for them – who else will back you otherwise apart from your faithful 'fans' here in the blogsphere. 🙂

  17. If you have a job, you should be grateful.Just get on with it and do as you are told.

    There are plenty of people that will do your job if you can't.


    The Management

  18. Doctors compain – the government invents “nurse practitioners”Teachers complain – the government makes learning assistants into “teachers lite”

    If only I were joking 🙁

  19. Tom, you speak for all of us poor paramedics (i include Techies in that) Would love to have that journalist with us. I started at 8, went out at 20 past 8 and got back for my 1st meal at 20 to four. We've gone so far this morning we had to bring passports. The journalist would be screaming blue murder by now, gasping for a cuppa and a 3 course meal! By the way loved the book. Read thru it recognising the faces but with distinct Manchester accents.

  20. In my service (before merger) we were very lucky in that we had two 1/2 hour breaks in a 12hour shift, you might not get the first till late and not hae the second but our control would always do their best.We could be interrupted unless protected etc etc.Under A4C (Agenda for Chaos) we now are only pad for 11 hours of our 12 hour shift. The other hour ae our two 1/2 hour breaks, for which we are completely uninterruptable once we get back onto our station. Its hard because you know calls are outstanding, I would love to be interrupted for a genuine case, but we can't. We are run ragged at the moment. We have to have breaks, it would be dangerous if we didnt. Patient care and public service would be damaged. Tom's point that a refreshed crew work harder is true. As for the comments that came from an insider, we have had the same in the local press here too. We love our obs and are fully committed to them, like most public service professions ut there comes a point when the safety and sanity of the staff have to be taken into consideration. Has anyone thought about what happens when we all go off sick with stress and work related illness. This can't go on otherwise there will be no-one left on the road…would like to se what the managers would do then (answer is they would pay a private company to do the work at a huge cost, and not get their suited hands dirty).

    I quite agree with the replies above about The Sun, unfortunately it has one of the highest levels of readers (so it has a big impact on people's vew) also I used to teach and apparently I as told on an inset day youonly need a reading age of 8 years old to be able to comprehend how the stories are for thought!

    Having just done one of the worst night shifts ever, and another two sure to be on their way, t would be nice to see the media, instead of attacking the NHS and mildly abusing its workers(who are already demoralised) with constant undeserved criticism why don't they have a word about the people who waste our time. Sure they often have snippets in the tiny columns, but these people who misuse our service are often the first to shout to the press. They aren't rideculed or berated by the press for their lack of common sense and duty to the rest of the public, that is saved for the NHS!

    Someone mentioned above about Nurse Practioners and Teaching assistants, well here's the news, it's happening. The third tier are being integrated (Those people who are given minimum training and sent to some of the sickest patients because thy meet the time criteria…and may I say do a fantastic job!) fully alongside A&E, dont get me wrong I dont have problem with First Responders who again do a brilliant job (if my dad collapses in ay VF i don't care who does CPR and presses the button as long as someone does!)

    Oh god this has yet again turned into a major rant..but hey I feel slightly better for it. For those of you not in the NHS, let me assure you of one thing. Ambulance staff are among the most committed hard working people you will ever meet. Thanks to people like Tom, the public can get an accurate account of what happens day in day out, not the view portrayed of a lot of moaning whinging people who sit on their backsides in the press. Please all you MPs and DoH bods, we ned more money, more crews, more equipment and then we can provide the public with the kind of service they deserve and pay for…

    Rant over, signing out…

  21. I've gone so far as to sign-up for and post a comment to the Sun about this. I was reasonable and mildly spoken – which is not what Emma Morton would hear from me in person, that would contain colourful anglo-saxon and questions about what species gave birth to her. In fact her email address is attached to the so-called article – I'm tempted to give her a piece of my mind.

  22. It's funny, I was going to post about this too! The whole meal breaks business is causing a right furore in the control room and I've never seen so much ill feeling between crews and control staff. I think it's because Sod's Law is coming into practice and dictating that every time we get a suspended, there's a crew on break 0.1 miles away and no one else for ten miles. I agree with you, though, why shouldn't you have a “proper” break? We all get one (even if it is only half an hour) and I can't think of any other profession that doesn't. I bet the Sun journalists always take their full hour!

  23. Unfortunately the situation is slightly more complex than Tom suggests. Previously staff were paid compensation for not receiving their breaks (7.10 per 12 hour shift tax free) this usually ammounts to about 100 per month. Their is a significant minority of staff who see this move as a pay cut hence the desire to contact the Sun and come up with a lot of bullshit about the public that of course the Sun were only too happy to print.Me, sadly I'm still exempt from either the compensation or the breaks.


  24. Of course you should have breaks, any fool kno (as Molesworth would have said) that people who work for hours without a break get TIRED, being TIRED makes you careless however careful you try to be. It is COMMON SENSE. That is sadly very uncommon these days. Getting TIRED regularly can also make you ill, you become vulnerable to any bugs that are going around, vulnerable to accidents and vulnerable to depressive illness which can make it impossible for you to work again EVER. Is there any way that you can get that FOOL journalist to ride with you for a month – minimum. Probably no point, the Sun never was interested in reality.Look after yourself.

  25. I am 100% for you guys to be given proper breaks. U do a most excellent job and cannot be forced to work for 12 hours without a proper break.On the other side, u get the people in shop type roles who won't do a two minute “help a customer” as they are “on their break”. This would never happen in the ambulance service.

  26. Naturally the Sun is full of righteous indignation. They don't want to ruin their reputation by looking at proper journalism, or publishing the truth.I don't need to tell you the value of eating while on the job in terms of replacing blood sugar and making sure you don't faint. It is WELL overdue for ambulance crews to have breaks; and the Sun and anyone else wouldn't have anything to complain about if there was enough funding, enough ambulances and enough crews to go around, because then crews COULD take a well earned break without anybody needing to worry about the level of cover.

    It makes me very cross that the government can make a big thing of giving money to the police to “be tough on crime” whilst letting the ambulance service get less and less. And don't even START me on Iraq, why the government thinks a huge budget for killing people is more important than a larger budget for saving people…

    Long and short of it – only those with one brain cell (Sun Readers) will see anything wrong with ambulance crews taking a break. The rest of us can appreciate the work crews do, and agree that it's past time for them to get a break like everyone else.

  27. Felt I ought to respond to this, having seen the way they do it in Canada.In Canada they've gone further than the RTA charging there is in the UK. If you need an ambulance, you pay for that ambulance – full stop. If an ambulance gets called by someone else and doesn't actually need to treat a patient, then sometimes the charge can be waived, but even if it's just to put a plaster on a finger, if a patient receives treatment, the patient pays for the ambulance call out.

    You'd be surprised what that does to time-waster figures. It's about time the UK did that too.

  28. surely, apart from anything, you'll nopt all be taking breaks at the same time, even at the same station? Surely, in an ideal arrangement, there'd maybe only be one or two crews on breaks from each station at a agiven time? Yes, potentially less cover, but it would be madness if it's a case “there is no cover in London between 12 and 12:25”. The way that piece of shoddy journalism is written gives this impression. I bet he works under 40 hours, and has all the breaks he is entitled to under the supposedly “barmy” EU legislation. Probably doesn't even have an agreement to go over the 40 hour mark. Idiot. The WTD is one of the least barmy bits of European legislation going.Actually, looking at it, the target here is less you over worked ambulance crews, but more the EU. You lot just get caught in the blast of this cheap shot.

  29. I agree with you completley. All emergency services should be allowed to take their breaks and I believe that they shoudl be forced to take them. If you are tired, hungry and thirsty then the service you provide may suffer.However, one small point…Police Officers get breaks in the same way you do, at least we do. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of proper breaks I have taken in the last 6 months. Most often my break is a sandwich whilst being driven to a job, or if I am really lucky, another sandwich while filling out my paperwork.

    As for the Sun, and the public in general. I would love to see them work 12 hours without so much as a chance to nip to the loo (I have been known to have to pop behind a bush!).

  30. I just posted a comment on the Sun story(?) you linked above suggesting the journalist (excuse my language) in question read this blog and considered why they'd taken up journalism. Sorry if it causes any problems.

  31. Our NHS is free at the point of use – I don't think changing that is the answer. I have known people in the US and Canada get into years of debt through accidents or illnesses that here we would be able to conentrate on simply recovering from, and I'm in no hurry to change that system.The stubbed toe/cut finger crew would probably be on benefits anyway or so deep in debt they would never pay, so it would not be effective and would only punish people like me if we needed medical treatment we have already paid for via our taxes. As a self-employed person who gets effectively zero sick pay, I would hesitate to call an ambulance at all if it committed me to a charge – and that is just plain wrong.

  32. I'm gonna have to stop reading your blog, I think. It just makes me angry or depressed. Not your fault… Sometimes I have to stop watching the news for a bit for the same reason.I don't know how you stay in the job, to be honest.

  33. OMGhow on earth can the NHS get away with this.

    beggars belief.

    even a lowlycheckout girly like myself is entitled to a break.

    I have sooooooooooo much respect for all.


  34. “The Sun the rag that it is” is WRONG we in the now called South Central Ambulance Service have had unpaid meal brakes for almost a year now!!!!! I know of one patient, in cardiac arrest, who waited an hour for an ambulance and the closest FRV was 15 miles away. To top it all the busiest ambulance station in the area was less than 3 minutes away and there was no one there. the contol centre, now there's a contradiction in terms, did not bang out the nearest crew as they were on lunch. and had opted for an “undisturbed meal brake”.

  35. STUPID is anyone who belies the clap trap printed in the sun. You are entitled to them by law so you should get them. I say give 'em hell if they try to stop you.

  36. Remember the summer before last when some bloke went postal at a family barbecue, shooting several people and then disappearing with the weapon?Unfortunately people died of their wounds while it was established whether the area was safe for emergency services to attend. The Daily Mail's headline? 'WHY DIAL 999?' Stupid, stupid, stupid journalists. No, actually we all know they aren't that stupid. Evil, evil, evil journalists.

    Tomorrow I hope a crew somewhere picks up a tabloid hack with screaming kidney stones and takes the fecker to hospital via the scenic route, over every speed hump and pothole in London at 40 mph.

  37. Thank you for being gracious about us First and Community Responders – be assured that if I reach your dad (or mum or friend or baby) first I will give them all the care I can in the time before you Cavalry arrive.I recently 3rd manned for a day, and was astonished that you work a 12 hour shift, let alone without a proper meal break. It's outrageous. Power to your very skilled elbows.

  38. I dont think I have been so frustrated in my whole entire life reading that artical from the sun, and I think all you wounderfull 'tom followers' have expressed all my thaughts and opinions on this one already. but just for the fun of it,'The sun,and the Journalist Emma Morton suck'.

  39. Wow.That rant was very well written (and very much appropriate to the situation). This blog really should be published somewhere where even more Londonsiders would read it and have a second thought about how ambos work.

  40. “Without a proper meal break”? Junior doctors given sleep deprivation as a basis for their training? I sense a trend we could go with here.Hell, let's go the whole hog – give airline pilots a half-bottle (I mean the big ones) of Jack Daniels, just before landing and take-off of course – none of your getting p155ed mid-atlantic when it's SAFE!

    And let's make bus drivers shoot up an arm fulla of heroin each clock-in, and those nice people who drive trains can choose between gin, skunk and speed, because that should make passing at junctions really funny!

    My point? Why allow anything scientifically proven to impair performance, be it low blood sugar, sleep deprivation or drink and drugs, to affect the people our lives rely upon.


  41. Can they not enforce a timewasters charge for the idiots who call for a small cut, or even a medium size one that they could treat if they made the effort or stubbed toe? The criteria would need to be very thorough of course, though the attending paras and techs should be able to use their discretion. As someone who is joining the service in April myself, it concerns me that people truly are that stupid to waste vital life saving services! Doesn't take more that a few brain cells to figure out how to treat a silly little cut. I'm sure these people learnt at least the basics of first aid via their parents or schooling… its unbelievable.Sarah.

  42. I think it is disgraceful that healthcare workers don't get proper breaks. I've got ME and really suffer when I don't get a break. I've come home before in a right state having worked on a ward for 14 or more hours with nothing to eat and maybe a cup of water or tea to drink… and my parents always go mental about it, every time.Not fair and not safe. And, when someone is treated incorrectly by an exhausted, starving, dehydrated paramedic, doctor, nurse or midwife it will be classed as THEIR FAULT for 'not stopping for a break'. TUT. Rubbish, nonsense. Everyone deserves breaks and under the WTD you are entitled to a break or compensation for said break, whatever your job. But I don't think it's safe not to have any kind of break at all.

  43. This.I think part of the trouble may be that it is the EU saying You Must Have Breaks, With These Specific Rules Applied, rather than you lot just sensibly, responsibly and (look out) autonomously fitting in a sandwich/cuppa/visit to the loo at whatever reasonable opportunities come up throughout the shift. IIRC the Sun and its readership aren't fond of the EU although I daresay half of them couldn't actually explain why.

    Perhaps one of their rivals will run an article on Devastation In Our NHS: Ambulance Staff Work 12 Hours Without Food Or Water.

  44. Actually, you make a very good point about first aid schooling. As a current student I think there is a problem here. I was never given any first aid training until very recently when I took part in the Royal Marines Pringle Trophy in Devon. It appears that (certainly as far as schools are concerned), first aid is a very borderline option which I suspect most of today's generation have no idea about. Which means many more members for the “Stubbed Toe Brigade” in the future. Am I completely wrong or does anyone agree?Mike Nutworth

  45. Well, I started high school about 10 years ago and we had to do a compulsory St Johns first aid certificate as part of the first year's (age 13/14) “Life Skills” course, with an option to do a refresher course in the Sixth Form.Then I went off to work and was required to attend the work-based training for “first aid in the workplace” and assorted Health and Safety doodahs.

    But, I guess if I was one of those who bunked off school and didn't get a long-term job, I'd be clueless.

  46. How about shutting down Gold Control/OCU/whatever it is called this week? That would kill two birds with one stone by letting you sort out your own breaks and getting the people in there back on the road actually doing some work!

  47. 7.10!! Down here in Bristol we'd only get 2.50 per 12 hour shift for going without a break. I didn't realise the cost of food was 3 times as much in London :o)Our protected meal breaks seem to be working out ok, it's certainly great to be able to sit down to a meal and know that you will be able to finish it. However, due to the semi-rural state of the service, there have been many occasions where we have had to travel for over half an hour to reach an emergency due to other crews being on their protected meal breaks.

    I can't deny though, that I'd rather have it that way, and know that I've got the strength and the state of mind to cope with whatever I find when I get there.

  48. It's not only Stun “journalists” who write articles like this. Where I work the local paper ran a story a few months ago under the headline “Nine Nine Nine, More Like Dine Dine Dine”, castigating crews for having the audacity to want a meal break during a shift “while people were waiting for an ambulance”.A large part of the problem is the number of calls (80% plus) that do not need an emergency ambulance. While it's not unreasonable to expect a 20-min break in 12 hours I don't know of anyone who would object to an interrupted or delayed break for a genuine emergency. A few months ago we were running back to station for our break when we were called to a cardiac arrest. Consequently we didn't get a break for over 10 hours and I have no problem with that. Compare and contrast – a few weeks later my break was interrupted for an alcoholic who was feeling sorry for himself and didn't want to be alone. He got an ambulance because he gave the “correct” answers to the questions about chest pain and breathing difficulties. THAT's why I tend to opt for undisturbed breaks now, although part of me thinks that I should remain available, just in case.

  49. Has anyone read that paper since Hillsborough was so accurately reported by them? Its scarey that this is the paper that political parties make policies to appease – even when they know its crazy.As to the story – I wouldn't want a distracted, tired, stressed ambulance crew working for me or on me. I want fresh & focussed staff.

    Given a choice obviously.

  50. Up in the sunny north east we get 2 half hour unpaid and uninterupted breaks per 12 hour shift. Management interpreted a4c to mean we would still have to be available during our breaks but we would not be getting paid for them and best of all because we werent getting paid our breaks they wouldnt count as working time. This meant an increase in our working week to make up for the time they werent paying us for, we would however be paid an allowance if we were interrupted. It was agreed by staff and management to go to BINDING ARBITRATION which we did, The result was if we had to be available then it was working time and had to be paid. It also went on to say that all breaks that took our working week over 37.5 hrs had to be payed at overtime rates. Management promptly renegged on the agreement of adhereing to BINDING ARBITRATION and tell the local media that we have refused an availability payment that they have so generously offered everytime a story hits the headlines which it frequently does. In the past you were lucky to get a break at all but now its guaranteed and really does make a difference when your getting hammered relentlessly for 12 hrs and makes weekend night shifts almost bareable. There will probably be people out there who read this and think were all just wingeing about nothing,well try working 12hrs a day without a break it stops being funny after a while. There were many of us who did not want to implement the current arrangements and were very uneasy about not responding during our breaks but go in to any north east amulance station now and ask if they want to go back to paid breaks and watch the response. And dont believe everything you read not just in the sun but all newspapers.

  51. Well it had to happen sooner or later.The BBC are reporting that a man has died of a heart attack and the implication is that this was as a result of two crews being on a break. Read the full story here.I'm not a paramedic, but having read your blog for a while, I get the impression that an FRU being on scene within eight minutes is within the Government target time (excuse me while I spit those words out!!). I suspect that the man would have died anyway, but that doesn't make a sensational story, does it?I don't believe any ambulance crew would sit idly by if they thought someone's life was at risk and therefore my conclusion is that this is an unfortunate incident that has been hyped up in order to discredit people who are doing what they should be entitled to do.Any views Tom?

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