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Paramedics leaving the job at five-year high in Scotland as Covid-19 strains health service

THE number of paramedics who have left their jobs in Scotland is at a five-year high as Covid-19 continues to strain front-line services and unions warn of staff burnout. 

Last year, 64 people stopped working as paramedics in Scotland, according to new data.

Overall, 258 staff left or changed jobs at the Scottish Ambulance Service in 2021, a freedom of information request revealed, including 51 technicians, 48 drivers and 52 control centre staff.

The service said that the numbers did not necessarily represent the number of staff who had quit the service, possibly including staff who had moved into another job in the service, such as a member of the control centre leaving their position following a successful application for a front-line vacancy.

GMB Scotland organiser Karen Leonard said that the numbers were “not surprising” following cuts to budgets and resources that have been exposed throughout the pandemic.

She warned that there was no quick fix to the problem of paramedic retention. 

She said: “After years of extreme pressure and nearly two years of working in a state of fear, staff are angry and exhausted; they have nothing left to give.

“Like the entire health and social care sector, [the Scottish Ambulance Service] needs serious and sustained investment so it can operate efficiently and safely, for patients and staff alike.

“A good place to start a recovery is for the government and management to work with our members properly to address the service challenges, rather than spinning plates in the hope of keeping an emergency service on life support.”

The service said in November that it would be “accelerating” staff recruitment to boost capacity amid pressures on the system in recent months that hae prompted the government to call in the help of both the army and firefighters.

A Unite spokesman said that there was “nothing in place to prevent burnout, despite the [service] being made aware in various forums.”

He noted that a survey by the union, published in November, had shown that ambulance workers felt undervalued and fatigued and that staff morale had collapsed in an under-resourced and understaffed workplace.

Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “Our NHS needs an ambitious plan for recovery that makes the serious and sustained investment in services that are needed.”

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