Over half of paramedics are suffering from burnout caused by “overwhelming” workloads, record numbers of 999 calls and the public misusing the ambulance service, a study has found.
Frontline crew members also blame lack of meal breaks, delays in reaching seriously ill patients and their shift often not ending when it should for their high levels of stress and anxiety.
The working lives of ambulance staff are so difficult that nine out of 10 display symptoms of “depersonalisation”, characterised by “cynicism, detachment and reduced levels of empathy” when dealing with patients who need urgent medical treatment.
The widespread poor mental welfare of paramedics is a problem for the NHS because it is leading to some quitting, thus exacerbating its shortage of ambulance personnel, the authors said.
The findings, published in the Journal of Paramedic Practice, have prompted concern that the demands on crews, alongside the injury, violence and death they encounter, are storing up serious mental health problems for them, including post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Ambulance staff are passionate about their role. However, burnout is a significant and very real issue that decreases staff efficacy and reduces quality of patient care,” the study said. It was undertaken by Rachel Beldon, who works for the Yorkshire ambulance service, and Joanne Garside, a professor and school strategic director of Huddersfield university’s health and wellbeing academy.
“Participants wanted better resources and staffing levels. The current workload appeared to be overwhelming and negatively affected their mental health and work-life balance.”
Source: The Guardian, 6 February 2022