A striking ambulance worker has warned that “morale is rock bottom” in the service, saying he knows of at least three colleagues who have taken their own lives in the last year.
Dad of three Shaun Sproule, 43, has previously taken time off from his role with North West Ambulance Service due to stress, and now volunteers to support colleagues with anxiety and depression as a result of the job. His day job is managing community defibrillators and first responder volunteers across Cumbria and Lancashire, but he has to do overtime as an ambulance technician on the roads, just to “make ends meet”, reports the Mirror.
His story comes as some 20,000 ambulance workers strike today across England and Wales. A second wave of historic strikes see paramedics, call-handlers, technicians and other North West Ambulance Service staff walking out in a row over pay.
READ MORE: LIVE: Paramedics go on second wave of strikes across Greater Manchester in row over pay - latest updates
“Sometimes you go home, have a cup of tea and just burst into tears. Normally I'm a jolly happy-go-lucky guy so when the kids see that it does upset them, they’ve never seen me like that before,” he said.
Facing jobs with patients that have been waiting eight hours or more, Shaun spends the drive asking himself “how am I going to apologise to the family” for the delay. He recalls one incident where an elderly man became an emergency case after he was forced to wait over 12 hours for a blood transfusion.
“By the time we got there the guy’s condition wasn’t good. We had to blue light him because he had been waiting so long.
“He survived but that might have been a different case. It was heartbreaking and all I could say to his wife was 'I’m sorry so sorry we haven’t been here sooner'.”
The delays caused by underfunding and lack of resources have pushed colleagues to tears. “The pressures on people are absolutely overwhelming, from admin staff to control room staff to dispatch," Shaun said.
“This used to be a job for life, now we see people for 6/7 years before they move on.
“There are foodbanks being set up to look after our staff. With the cost of fuel going up, we have colleagues choosing whether to eat or come into work, or between eating and putting the heating on.
“Clapping doesn’t feed families."
A spokesman for North West Ambulance Service said: "We understand that our staff have been working under extreme pressures without much respite through the pandemic and since then.
“The health and well-being of our staff are extremely important to us, especially given the current burdens. We have measures in place to support them, including trust-supported counselling and links to other NHS services.”
If you're struggling and need to talk, the Samaritans operate a free helpline open 24/7 on 116 123. Alternatively, you can email email@example.com or visit their site to find your local branch.