'Demoralised': Number of Welsh ambulance staff leaving service more than doubles in three years

An ambulance worker has told ITV News that his job is "absolutely demoralising" as latest figures show the service in Wales is significantly struggling to hold onto staff.

The member of staff who wanted to remain anonymous said "it makes you feel empty, embarrassed, pitiful".

"I absolutely would not have gone into this career if I knew then what I know now", he said.

It comes as figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats show that in 2019/20, the number of people who left the Welsh Ambulance Service was 230, rising to 466 in 2022/23.

The ambulance employee, who still works for the service, said: "You are apologising to people, patients and apologising to family members and members of the public for the delays and the state of the service and the state of the NHS in Wales."

Welsh Ambulance staff went on strike earlier this year over their pay and conditions.

Emergency medical technician Giles George, who is a union representative for GMB, also still works for the ambulance service. He thinks the reason so many people are leaving is because of workload and working conditions.

"Staff moral over the last 12 years has just gone downwards and this is the worst I've ever seen it," he said.

"There's been an increase in work, there's been massive delays outside hospitals when we get to hospital, and staff feel there's a bit of a toxic management environment and people want to leave."

An old staff member said "I feel sorry for the staff still there. Don't know how they will cope with the workload" Credit: Welsh Ambulance Services

The increase in people leaving the ambulance service isn't exclusive to the Welsh Ambulance Service. But it is twice as high as that in England.

The GMB Union, which represents around 1,500 ambulance staff in Wales, responded to the figures describing a ‘mass exodus’ of ambulance workers.

It said that it has "long warned recruitment and retention pressures in ambulance services are at a critical point.

"Our members in ambulance trusts are at the sharp edge of a service that is under record pressure. The stark fact is that patients' lives are at risk."

The Liberal Democrats obtained the data via a Freedom of Information request.

The Welsh Ambulance Service has argued that many of the staff who have left were brought in temporarily during the Covid pandemic.

It added that changes to its pension scheme mean some staff are choosing to retire early, but said that overall there are more people joining the service than leaving.

Angie Lewis, Director of People and Culture, said: “Staff and volunteers in every corner of Wales and in every part of the service work tremendously hard in often difficult circumstances.

"While these figures look stark in isolation, it’s important to remember there is natural attrition in every organisation and a whole host of reasons why people choose to move on.

“The Covid-19 pandemic and the need to temporarily bolster our service also means many of the staff who left during this period were employed on fixed term contracts, providing services such as our mobile testing units which have since been scaled back."

In a statement, a Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Last year we provided an extra £3m to help recruit 100 new ambulance staff and over the last six years we have increased annual training places for paramedics by 39.5% (from 86 to 120).”

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