When I wrote to the then Chief Executive (Ann Radmore) on behalf of London Ambulance UNISON in November 2014 laying out the union’s ideas and demands to get the Service out of the downward spiral it was in, I didn’t think that it would take two years for the Service to wake from it’s slumber, face facts and accept reality!
These are the specific areas that we said needed resolved before we could even start on getting back to the kind of Service we once were (although getting back to those days will need fundamental changes).
- All Paramedics at Band 6.
- A re-think of the Senior Paramedic role.
- Technicians’ future to be secured.
- Make it easier, and affordable, for our own staff to study to become Paramedics.
- Make it financially attractive for all staff to stay with LAS.
- Create a unique London Package for all our staff that recognises the stresses and strains of working in London.
UNISON has always insisted that London is unique. Every ambulance worker in the UK works hard and has a difficult job. Every Ambulance Service in the UK has their own stresses and breaking point, but London is different. It is bigger, busier and politically more under the microscope.
A London Package is needed now more than ever. UNISON will not stop pursuing it.
Time has passed since 2014 of course. The political and economic landscape has also changed. The government cuts within the NHS are impacting heavily on Ambulance Services, particularly London.
Where once we were heralded as the best Ambulance Service in the UK by no other than our constant critic the Evening Standard, we are now in the news for the wrong reasons as reporters go nit-picking to find fault.
The BBC documentary ‘Ambulance’ highlighting the work of the LAS was very good, well received and won media applause, but that alone will not hide the fact that we are a struggling Service with a workforce that wants better from it’s senior management.
The Tory pay freeze has damaged staff morale and has undone a lot of the gains that UNISON has won for all staff over the years.
It is not all doom and gloom however! We are very close to an agreement on Paramedic Band 6.
UNISON, and only UNISON, has pursued this within the LAS over many years. After paying us lip-service for so long, the senior management team and Trust Board has finally accepted that this issue is not going away and neither are we.
To give credit where it is due, once senior management got on board with this we have been having very constructive discussions with the Director of Operations and others.
We have also pursued this with other UNISON branches in other Ambulance Services (and UNISON nationally) to put pressure collectively on the Department of Health.
We have a breakthrough!
We are awaiting a final confirmation from the Department of Health and Ambulance Employers of a national Paramedic Band 6 profile.
UNISON and the London Ambulance Service senior management have agreed to a pause in our talks locally so that we can receive and view this profile.
Make no mistake about it, this is a major development in a time of cutbacks and economic downturns. Our Paramedics deserve it without a doubt.
It is not over until it’s over of course and there might well be a few twists and turns, but LAS UNISON are clear that this has to happen soon so that 1) we start to improve recruitment and retention, and 2) we avoid a damaging industrial dispute.
Band 6 has to happen sooner rather than later. We cannot go into the new year without confirmation of this important change for our Paramedics.
As soon as more information comes out we will share it widely. We want this issue out of the way so that we can move on to other parts of the London package. We want all staff to benefit when working for the London Ambulance Service.
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