'I have seen nothing like it' - South West ambulance workers facing 'unprecedented stress'

  • Watch Ken Goodwin's report here.

Ambulance workers in Gloucestershire have said the "current pressures are unprecedented" with one paramedic saying he has seen nothing like it in the past 16 years.

Health services have been stretched across the region in recent months as Covid restrictions have eased and people have opted to stay in the country for their holidays as opposed to going abroad.

Last month South Western Ambulance Service issued a plea to the public after it recorded the busiest day in its history. The service urged people to only call 999 in an "unprecedented, life-threatening emergency".

Now, paramedics have told ITV West Country staff are struggling to cope.

"The pressures are unprecedented, I have seen nothing like it in 16 years," said ambulance worker Steve Clark.

"It is putting a lot of pressure on our staff at the moment, sickness levels are increasing, that is through stress and anxiety, and just an ever increasing workload.

"Meal breaks are often missed, shift overruns are ever increasing, they can be anything from one hour, to two, three or more."

Steve serves as the Unison trade union rep for paramedics in the Gloucester area and said the union has been grateful for the support it has received during the busy periods in recent months.

The military had been asked to assist the service after it was revealed six potential hospitals across the South West were identified as having issues with A&E waiting times.

"Unison is very supportive of having the military in, it's much-needed," Steve continued.

"It shows excellent partnership working as we have done with the fire service, in Gloucestershire and other counties as well. It's all very welcome during these unprecedented times."

"We mustn't forget that winter is looming, it is round the corner," Steve continued.

"If we have a cold winter, undoubtedly that call volume is going to continue to rise. This is why we welcome military assistance and fire assistance wherever required."

Paramedics are saying that there are huge pressures on staff.

In a statement the South Western Ambulance Service said: "NHS services across the South West, including our ambulance trust, are experiencing unprecedented, high-level demand.

"We dealt with an average of more than 3,000 emergency incidents per day during the past eight weeks until Sunday, which is equivalent to more than two new incidents every minute.

"We must prioritise critically ill patients, as well as the health and wellbeing of our own people who are working incredibly hard day and night to be there for those who need us.

"We are doing all we can to mitigate the impact of the demand on our colleagues, and will continue to do so during what we expect to be challenging months ahead."