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East of England ambulance services increases mental health and physiotherapy support for workers as trust sees 'extremely high' staff sickness rate



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Staff sickness at the region's ambulance trust has exceeded 10 per cent, according to new figures - prompting increased mental health and physiotherapy support for under-pressure workers.

Suffolk's Local Outbreak Engagement Board was last week told that the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) was experiencing staff pressures.

In an update of health services across the county, Dr Ed Garratt, chief officer of Suffolk's clinical commissioning groups said: “The ambulance trust is the area of most concern, they have got up to 10 per cent sickness rate which is extremely high – more than double the Suffolk average.

Staff sickness at the region's ambulance trust has exceeded 10 per cent, according to new figures - prompting increased mental health and physiotherapy support for under-pressure workers. Picture: iStock
Staff sickness at the region's ambulance trust has exceeded 10 per cent, according to new figures - prompting increased mental health and physiotherapy support for under-pressure workers. Picture: iStock

"The biggest factor in terms of sickness in the ambulance trust is mental health or stress, which I think is an indication of the pressure people are working under.”

He said pressures meant it already 'feels much more like January' for services across the county - traditionally the toughest month for health organisations.

Figures on the NHS Digital dashboard from the end of February 2020 - just prior to the pandemic - indicated the staff sickness figure was 6.6 per cent.

Dr Ed Garratt, chief executive of Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups. Picture: Ben Carmichael/Suffolk CCGS
Dr Ed Garratt, chief executive of Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups. Picture: Ben Carmichael/Suffolk CCGS

That exceeded eight per cent at the end of December 2020 and peaked at 12.31 per cent at the end of January this year, before falling again.

Trust board papers for November 10 reported the sickness rate was now 10.38 per cent, including Covid-related sickness, twice the maximum 5 per cent target.

A spokeswoman for EEAST said: "The health and wellbeing of our people is a top priority for the trust and we are fully aware of the impact that the extreme and sustained operational pressures we are experiencing are having on our staff.

“To support our people, we have been increasing access to mental health services and physiotherapy which we hope will help their wellbeing and also reduce sickness levels.”

Tom Abell
Tom Abell

Chief executive Tom Abell's report to the board this month said that £170,000 was being invested this winter into staff health and wellbeing.

Around 140 members of staff are acting as mental health champions or wellbeing ambassadors, while rapid intervention for post-traumatic incident debriefing is being increased.

Elsewhere, wellbeing practitioners and internal occupational health advisors are being recruited, increased access to talking therapies put in place and enhanced physiotherapy support allocated.

Suffolk's Local Outbreak Engagement Board was last week told that the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) was experiencing staff pressures
Suffolk's Local Outbreak Engagement Board was last week told that the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) was experiencing staff pressures

Mr Abell added: "There has been a marked increase in sickness levels in recent weeks which has coincided with the increase demand on our services and pressure in the system.

"We have recognised that our people are tired and stressed in the wake of the pandemic and high levels of calls.

"We are providing a number of additional health and wellbeing services to support our colleagues."

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