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?
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.