The head of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service has stressed that he takes mental health seriously after a paramedic warned the pressure faced by staff is leading to “stress, depression and even suicidal thoughts”.
A paramedic posted a hard-hitting message on social media last week, criticising health bosses’ attitudes to the “day-to-day welfare” of staff “regarding rest periods, late finishes and enforced overtime”.
“Get it sorted or move over and let someone who has an ounce of compassion get the job done for you, before you wake up to a headline some day that will haunt you for the rest of your days,” the paramedic warned.
Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) chief executive Michael Bloomfield has now written “a personal message to all staff outlining how seriously he takes the issue of mental health and wellbeing and reminding staff of the support that is available to those who may need to avail of it”.
The paramedic’s widely shared Facebook post, addressed to health bosses, read: “Stop using Stormont’s lack of an Assembly as your latest, long-running excuse to hold up our right to the pay we deserve. You are killing any love anyone had for the job. You are destroying us with your utter contempt for front line staff. You are causing severe financial hardship for many. You are causing stress, depression and even suicidal thoughts in many.
“You are haemorrhaging staff as people jump ship to Capita, GP surgeries or just leave before the job kills them.”
It continued: “Is that what it’s going to take for you to sit up and notice the rot beneath your feet?
“We are fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, daughters, carers, colleagues and friends, and we are sick to the back teeth of your inaction and procrastination.”
Michael Mulholland, regional organiser with the trade union GMB, said he is “extremely concerned” about the wellbeing of NIAS staff.
“The duty of care needs to be more visible in relation to all employees,” he added. “We will be meeting with management next week and I’m going to be making sure that that’s high up on the agenda. Between sickness absence and staff shortages the ambulance service has been put under pressure for some time.
“In this particular circumstance, I would look at this (Facebook post) as a cry for help – help that it would appear to me they weren’t getting from management.”
A spokesperson for NIAS said: “A number of the challenges referred to within the post are the result of our current staffing levels and the trust is working hard to address this. We are pleased to announce that today (Monday) 48 associate ambulance practitioners will join other colleagues on the emergency tier having completed their statutory training course
“NIAS takes seriously the issue of staff mental health and wellbeing and has had in place, for a number of years, a range of programmes that staff are encouraged to avail off. Staff are also encouraged to approach line managers across the organisation.”