Linda Fabiani MSP for East Kilbride has welcomed the agreement on changes to working conditions at the Scottish Ambulance Service which will ensure ambulance staff respond to emergency calls while on a break.
Linda said “It is good to see a resolution to this issue as I know some people were concerned at the previous arrangements surrounding breaks for Ambulance staff.
“I am also pleased at 150 new jobs being created at the Scottish Ambulance Service. This will help ensure that staff in this vital emergency service, such as those based in Hairmyres, can continue to perform at the high level we all expect to safeguard the health of ourselves and our loved ones in the event of serious injury or ill health.”
In new plans, which have been agreed by unions, staff will move to a 37.5 hour paid week inclusive of rest periods. Currently, staff are rostered for 40 hours per week, paid for 37.5 hours and entitled to 2.5 hours of unpaid rest periods. As they will now be paid for all the hours they are on duty, staff will be required to attend emergency calls throughout their shift period.
To support the redesign of the service, an additional 150 front line staff will be hired. Interim arrangements, which will be in place while the new working hours are implemented, have also been agreed.
Confirming the agreement to the Scottish Parliament, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said “I am pleased to say that a long term solution – that protects patient safety and also supports ambulance service staff – has been agreed.
“The rejection of the most recent offer made it very clear to me that a radically different proposal would be required in order to reach a solution to this issue and that is what has been found.
“To support this deal the Scottish Government will invest an additional five million pounds per year in the Scottish Ambulance Service to create 150 new front line jobs. The investment will strengthen the clinical response to life-threatening emergencies as well as the performance of the Scottish Ambulance Service. For remote and rural areas it will support increased numbers of community paramedics able to work in and with communities.
“The agreement ensures that additional funding will be invested in the ambulance service, rather than in additional payments to existing ambulance staff.
“No individual staff member will gain financially when required to attend an emergency call during a rest period. I welcome a resolution that clearly demonstrates what I have always known and believed to be the case – that the priority of ambulance staff is their patients, not their personal gain.”
The change to working hours is within the terms of Agenda for Change – the terms and conditions of the NHS.
The Scottish Government has always classed the Ambulance Service as an emergency service.
Under the previous interim arrangement all applicable staff were required to respond to ‘Category A’ emergency calls and major incidents during rest breaks. Staff were compensated with an annual payment of £250 (pro rata), a guaranteed rest break and payment of £100 if their rest break is actually disturbed.
The new interim arrangements, which will be in place for five months, came into force on 17 January 2012. Under the arrangement staff will be paid £150 per month and will be required to answer calls during their breaks.