Many Londoners will have been shocked and maybe a bit frightened by the news that the capital’s ambulance service is to cut 890 jobs over the next five years.
Despite Tory lies about protecting the NHS, a staggering 560 of the posts will be frontline ambulance workers—a cut of a fifth.
Other jobs to go will be in “support” roles such as control room staff.
Yet demand for our services is rising sharply. The London Ambulance Service answered 1.5 million emergency calls and responded to one million incidents last year.
As cuts in the NHS grow, less services will be available and more people will call the health provider that they know how to access in an emergency—the ambulance service.
Fewer people doing more work will mean longer waiting times for patients and more pressure for those still in a job.
A&E departments are struggling to cope and many are already at breaking point.
Our managers have come up with a number of “solutions” to help us do more work with less people.
One of their plans is to speed up our turnaround time at hospital. They want to give us just 15 minutes to hand over our patient, complete the paperwork, and then clean our vehicle.
If you call an ambulance, do you want a crew turning up exhausted after working ten hours without food or breaks?
Another worrying management attack is the “revised approach” to dirty vehicles and the checking of vehicles at the start of a shift. Our start of shift vehicle inspection is essential.
We ensure that equipment is on board and that the vehicle is roadworthy.
Now, management say, as long as the engine starts and we have the most basic resuscitation kit on board we should respond to emergencies—even if we have less equipment than a St John Ambulance first aider.
We can no longer take vehicles off the road to clean them straight after treating a patient and are therefore forced to respond to emergencies with dirty vehicles.
In short, the only way the service can do more with less staff is to keep heaping pressure onto workers. It is bad for staff morale and bad for patient care.
And how will a smaller service cope with the times of peak demand—during cold weather, flu epidemics, the Christmas party season, and the Olympics?
It is not clear whether our unions are going to mount any significant response to this attack.
We do know that ambulance workers who attended the TUC’s 26 March anti-cuts demo were buoyed by its size and spirit.
We have to link up with other health workers and organise to defend our jobs, conditions and the future of the NHS.