In a country of beleaguered ambulance Trusts facing staffing shortages, pay freezes and dwindling resources, things are looking bleak right now for employees and the public alike.
But there is a glimmer of hope.
After a desperate few years, East of England Ambulance Service has been experiencing the beginnings of a positive shift in culture and attitude. A change which, if successful, could show the way for other Trusts and prove to be the template for the much needed shot in the arm ambulance services nationwide need. Among other things, this grassroots initiative led to the production of the powerful and incisive video below about pressure and late finishes and accompanying petition, which solicited this encouraging response from the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives. But it's an initiative that needs your support, wherever you are in the country.
Although this blog's recent focus has been on London Ambulance Service's institutionalised abuse of its workforce - a conclusion borne out by the recently published, damning independent investigation into bullying and harassment - LAS's current culture echoes that of EEAS' in the past. With the recently announced departure of LAS Director of Operations, Jason Killens, it seems every bit as plausible that London staff could hope for a positive shift in their fortunes in the future. It just takes the right kind of bold and positive influence and leadership.
The kind which Dr Anthony Marsh is providing for EEAS in his role as Chief Executive.
During his tenure, Dr Marsh has proven to have an ear for staff and public concern, supporting moves to address late finishes, stopping the practise of fudging response time figures through the use of single-manned rapid response vehicles where a double-staffed ambulance is more appropriate. He has encouraged increased transparency and communication. He has backed a push to support wage increases for low paid Trust staff. He has started to build a belief that the workforce is valued. In his Clinical Governance Report of 2013. he challenged the kind of negative culture which brought EEAS to its knees in the past and has more recently seen LAS fall from grace. But there is much more which still needs to be addressed - his work is far from done.
Sadly, the remaining proponents of EEAS' former, negative culture are understandably not happy with the threat Anthony Marsh poses to the status quo and are making moves to oust him, already preparing his replacement in the wings. Dr Marsh's departure would be a regressive move for the Trust and the public it serves. It would endanger any hope of continued positive change and threatens to see a return to the blinkered and damaging practises of old.
If ambulance Trusts around the country are to find a way to evolve past the archaic 'command & control' management structure which has proven to grind staff into the ground, if they are to mature into a public service which supports its staff and delivers the world class service the country expects, then we need to stand with progressive leaders like Dr Anthony Marsh, who is also chair of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives.
It is for these reasons that East of England staff have been running a petition to the Secretary of State for Health asking for support to keep Dr Marsh in their Ambulance Trust. Hundreds of staff have signed the petition, which says, ‘We believe that without Dr Marsh things will again quickly start to unravel in our Ambulance Trust; there are already discussions to remove some of the supportive changes we have seen, and this is severely impacting morale. We feel we need to petition you [Jeremy Hunt], as we do not believe our Board is acting in our best interests.’
Frontline staff are traveling to Parliament on 20th July (next Monday) with the support of former Minister of State for Care and Support Norman Lamb and other MPs. I will be travelling with the group and hope that they will be listened to and supported by MPs and the Secretary of State for Health. I’ll post details of our mission both on this blog and in other social media.
They, and I, would be most grateful for your support and help. This could be a tipping point for ambulance culture nationwide.
Please follow this link to sign the petition.