Critical report of ambulance service for Bedford paints picture of 'unhappy’ workforce

Patient safety and ambulance waiting times have been highlighted as areas of concern following the publication of an East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust staff survey report.

The survey, conducted in November 2021, acknowledges improvements have been made but overall, paints a picture of an unhappy workforce.

Mohammad Yasin, MP for Bedford and Kempston, said: “This is the latest in a long line of reports critical of the East of England Ambulance Service. I recognise the small improvements the new leadership team have made on culture change, particularly on creating a safer environment for staff to speak out, but the overall picture is of an unhappy workforce.

"Some of the issues, such as inadequate pay, burnout and understaffing issues will be familiar to NHS Trusts across the country that are still dealing with the pandemic and a decade of Government under investment.

Fewer people would recommend the ambulance trust as a place to work, according to the report

"But this staff survey shows that the EEAST still scores the worst in many categories compared with similar organisations. This disaffection ultimately impacts on patient safety. Ambulance waiting times are still a huge concern and the promised improvements aren’t happening quickly enough for staff or patients.”

Tom Abell, chief executive of EEAST, explained the report had been published amid a period of sustained pressure on the service, asking staff questions about how they feel about how they work.

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But he admitted: "While the results acknowledge the improvements we have made in key areas, the results also show that we still have deep-rooted, long-standing issues that need to be addressed.

"I have been pleased to see fewer employees reporting experiences of bullying from managers or feeling under pressure to come into work when unwell, and more of our people feel safe to report unsafe clinical practice, indicating we are creating a culture which is becoming more open which can learn from mistakes when they happen.

"That sense of increased safety is also reflected in the fact that fewer employees experienced violence from members of the public.

He added that numbers still needed to improve further, but was confident of being able to make a difference.

He added: "This improvement will take time, but we have made significant progress in tackling outstanding employment relations cases, encouraging people to speak up (with a 900% increase in people coming forward with issues due to our ‘Speak Up, Speak Out’ campaign), recruiting additional staff and managing pressures on the service, investing in staff health with a new health and wellbeing team and mental health support.

"I am sad to see that fewer staff would recommend the Trust as a place to work, and that more feel that relationships are under strain. We also scored low on people’s ability to access training. Given the sustained pressure on the service this may be unsurprising, but what we as a Trust will be focusing on is how we tackle these pressures sustainably in future.

Mr Abell said the Trust's focus would be on building on the progress and further strengthening health and well-being support for staff. The Trust will also be investing in an expanded team to drive recruitment, resolve staff issues quickly and tackle inequalities in culture.