Ambulance crews top for sickness

PUBLISHED: 10:00 01 May 2011

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Archant

ambulance workers covering Weston and Worle were off sick more than staff at any other NHS trust in the South West during December.

Figures released this week show staff at Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) failed to turn up to work because of illness an average of 2.5 days over the festive month.

The figure, described as ‘disappointing’ by bosses, ranks the service top for staff sickness over the South West’s 40 other NHS trusts and fifth in the country.

The trust’s sickness rate – 7.61 per cent – is calculated by dividing the total number of days sick by the number of days staff were set to work.

The Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust chalked up 5.49 per cent, North Somerset NHS recorded 5.57 per cent and Weston Area Health Trust’s rate was 4.42 per cent.

A spokesman for the GWAS said the cold weather and high number of sick patients during the month had contributed to the high sickness level.

The month also saw the start of a dispute between staff and bosses over a change to working hours - still to be resolved some five months on.

The spokesman said: “During December, the trust did experience a significant rise in its sickness absence rates due to a number of challenges.

“The winter is a notoriously busy time for the ambulance service and last winter was no exception.

“It was one of the coldest winters on record with extremely difficult snow and ice conditions.

“This resulted in the trust dealing with a lot more very poorly patients during this period than on previous years and also contributed to higher levels of staff sickness.

“The trust takes the health and wellbeing of its staff very seriously and is continually working alongside staff to ensure they are happy and healthy at work.”

The spokesman highlighted that the average sickness rate for the 2010/11 financial year was 5.72 per cent.

He also said ambulance services generally had higher rates due to the nature of work carried out by frontline staff.

In the past year, GWAS – which employs 1,680 people - claims to have established a staff welfare group and investigated how to make the organisation a better place to work.

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