East of England Ambulance Service paramedics open up on challenges of the job on the road

  • Paramedics open up about the challenges of working on the front line, in Charlie Frost's report for ITV News Anglia

Paramedics at a struggling ambulance trust have opened up about the challenges they face working on the front line - from their fears over coronavirus, to frustrations at hospital waiting times and the mental toll of the job.

In July, the East of England service recorded the third slowest response time to life-threatening emergencies in the country.

ITV News Anglia spent a day on the road with a crew from Chelmsford as they responded to emergency calls from around Essex.

The paramedics said their main concern was the comfort of their patients, despite the stresses they faced at work.

Daniel Hyde, a senior emergency medical technician said: "I think that the ambulance service, get the sharp end of the stick a bit. But we don't want to be sat outside of hospital - we want to be seeing patients.

"Sometimes the hospitals are full or they can't safely look after a patient and that, again, isn't their fault.

"So it's just frustration across the board. We're frustrated with it, the patients are frustrated with it and the doctors and the nurses are frustrated with it too."

Emergency service staff say pressure has continued to build on paramedics since the pandemic, with ambulance response times rising.

In July, the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST)recorded the third-slowest response time in the country to life-threatening emergencies.

The aim is to respond to life-threatening calls in seven minutes, but on average EEAST took 11 minutes. The majority of calls - 90% - took 20 minutes.

The paramedics say that after working under challenging conditions during the pandemic, morale among staff is low.

Daniel Hyde has been a paramedic for 14 years and told ITV that the pandemic is the only time he ever questioned his career path.

After catching Covid-19 himself, he wondered if his job was too much of a risk.

He said: "We just kind of went in blind, but knowing that we had to go in because somebody needed our help.

"I caught Covid myself the very first time and [was] really ill. That [puts] in perspective what we were dealing with. It was something we'd never dealt with before.

"I did second-guess whether I actually wanted to come back after having that first round of Covid.

"It wasn't that I wanted to give up. I just wasn't sure whether it was safe to continue. I have children and a wife, do I really want to put myself at risk? And so that was the main concern I had."

Radim Goralczyk, who joined the trust in 2014, said: "I think jokes and having a sense of humour is like a defence mechanism.

"Sometimes, the job gets to me and I'm trying to process it. Sometimes it helps to talk to my crewmate or to my to my fiancee and it definitely does take the pressure off.

"After certain calls and certain jobs - it can get to you later on when you aren't expecting it."

The East of England Ambulance Service was placed into special measures in 2020.

In its latest report, published in July, the Care Quality Commission rated it "requires improvement", with inspectors finding staff did not always feel respected, supported or valued.

Tom Abell took over as chief executive of the service a year ago and said there had been improvements.

"I am pleased the CQC said that there was a marked improvement from last time that they visited," he said.

"So I think we're heading in the right direction, but the job is far from done and it's going to take some time for us to recruit the right number of people, to put in the right support for our people and to make the changes in our service.

"And so [it is important] we meet the needs of our community in a responsive way, but equally also make sure that we look after each and every one of our people properly."

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