A & E Support need support!

What are we to do with our A&E Support staff? The Union has been talking to our A&E Support members regarding the way that they are treated, and the lack of opportunities for progress within the Service. We have heard a lot of complaints.

The truth is, I don’t blame them for complaining! They are in an impossible position. Can’t move back – difficult to move forward! They are stuck and feel excluded.

Unison Senior Sector representatives are working with management to try and get them unstuck. A&E Support Staff are a victim of circumstances, borne out of unintended consequences as a result of both the Union and management trying to do the right thing for staff threatened with transfer to a private provider. Let me explain!

In June 2005 the Service lost a couple of big Patient Transport Service contracts that were mainly operating in the West area. About 45 staff worked on these contracts. The majority of them had been with the Service for many years. We did not want to lose them. They did not want to go.

To cut a long story short, a new grade of staff was agreed; A&E Support. This grade, as the name implies, was formed to help, support and ease the pressure on the accident and emergency operations. The majority of ‘under threat’ PTS staff were successful in obtaining one of these posts and, therefore, were saved from transfer. The skill level lay between Patient Transport and Technician grades. At the time this was a brilliant opportunity for staff to gain experience and then to progress through a career pathway onto being a Technician and beyond.

We did not foresee, and nor could we, the Technician grade being withdrawn. This is the nub of the problem now!

From PTS to A&E Support to Technician to Paramedic was, on paper anyway, a smooth progress along a career pathway that both management and the union supported.

Take out the Technician grade and to many people the gulf between A&E Support and Paramedic (University or Student Paramedic) is too wide a jump and too much of a gamble, considering that A&E Support staff have to resign first before taking a placement. On top of that the opportunities are not as numerous as they once were. And on top of that the fact that you have to be either a Technician or Paramedic to take advantage of the many choices within the wider operational side, you can understand why A&E Support staff are frustrated and stuck!

We will work with A&E Support members and management to resolve this.

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I received a phone call this week from a person working for a private ambulance company asking me for advice. He inadvertently filled his diesel ambulance with petrol. The result was that his company is taking £300 out of his wages for repairs etc! No consultation, no disciplinary process, no right of appeal, no sympathy from the company and no union! My advice was for him to either leave that private ambulance company or get organised! He agreed with me!

I felt sorry for him and understand that people don’t have much choice sometimes regarding finding work but the next time someone asks: Public or Private? You know the answer!

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One of our members has been taken seriously ill while on holiday abroad with their partner recently.  Their friends and work colleagues have rallied round (as always in our Service) with practical and financial help during this difficult period. Our Branch Welfare Officer has already liaised with Unison Welfare and obtained a significant donation to help with the early problems that this sort of emergency can cause. Our Branch has also made a donation to be used where and when appropriate.

That is what a union is there for.  This is what Unison does.

Eric Roberts

Branch Secretary.