£250 emergency call offer rejected

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AMBULANCE staff in the Borders have described an offer of a one-off £250 payment to be called out to an emergency during a meal break a “disgrace”, writes Kenny Paterson.

The GMB is the latest union to reject the one-off payment from the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS), following the stance taken by Unite and Unison.

The current situation sees paramedics and technicans not being able to attend a call-out if on a scheduled break.

But the policy has been criticised following the deaths of two people in the Highlands and Perthshire when local crews did not arrive as they were on a meal break.

A Borders paramedic said the problem stems from staff hours being cut from 40 to 37½ in 2004, when rest time was also introduced.

The paramedic told us: “The meal break is now our own time whereas before we were paid.

“They are now offering us £250 to be disturbed during the meal break. But when you consider an ambulance technican on £10 an hour has lost £1,200 a year from their hours being cut seven years ago, the offer is a disgrace.”

The paramedic said staff were not happy with the current arrangements, and many wish to answer calls during their breaks.

“You have a situation where if there is a road accident in our town and we are on a meal break, a crew from a town further away has to go because we cannot be disturbed. People’s lives are being put in danger,” he said.

“Staff would prefer to be available during their break, but not for less money than we were previously on.

“There have been no extra resources dedicated to the Borders, despite our hours being cut. The SAS has to decide if we are an emergency service or only an essential service.”

An SAS spokesman, said: “A proposal was made to staff that preserves the rest break during a shift, while at the same time allowing for crews to be interrupted in a life-threatening emergency. We are committed to finding a solution.”