East Midlands Ambulance Service staff 'can't take breaks'

EMAS ambulance
Image caption EMAS said hospital handover delays and an increase of "life-threatening" calls had contributed to the extra costs

East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) has overspent by almost £12m - with staff reported to be under pressure and unable to take scheduled breaks.

EMAS has an £11.9m deficit - over 23 times the overspend prediction at the start of the financial year.

It was also revealed EMAS had to borrow an additional loan to help with running costs.

EMAS said calls had "significantly" increased and handover delays at hospitals had incurred extra costs.

Regional organiser for the GMB union, Colin Todd, is concerned at the possible impact of the deficit on staff and patients.

EMAS said it received 900,000 "life-threatening" calls last year - which equates to a 999 call every 35 seconds.

Image caption Ambulance staff are often unnecessarily deployed to locations due to the 111 service, according to Colin Todd

"The pressure is around how the calls come in," Mr Todd said. "Staff can only respond to the call they get.

"They then want to treat the patient and get them to where they need to be and get back on the road, but there's so many issues with the handover to the hospital which can regularly take more than an hour.

"That means they're hanging round, which creates a pressure on the other crews that are out there trying to get to the calls in the timescales they are given."

Mr Todd said staff often "completely miss" their window for breaks in a shift.

He added the 111 service had added to the pressure, saying call handlers unnecessarily sent ambulances as a precaution.

EMAS said it had achieved its savings target of £6.4m this year and recruited 300 more frontline staff.

Richard Wheeler, director of finance at EMAS, said £9m had also been spent on new vehicles.

"Nationally, the NHS has got to save £22bn over the next few years and we recognise the challenges we've got to face," Mr Wheeler said.

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