Death by Lunch

Bugger off – I’m on my meal break.

London Ambulance Service is in the news again – for all the wrong reasons:

Man dies as ambulance crews take a breakEvening Standard
999 team lunch as man diesThe Sun

The problem with ‘compulsory’ meal breaks is causing chaos in London. Of course the popular press think we’re just a bunch of lazy sods who don’t care and are inciting their readers to outrage.

“the nut that instigated the lunch break thing and those that decided to enforce it should be sued Ala Americana for all they are worth by the guys family”
“The persons responsible for not opting out
[i.e. the crews] should be made liable”
“If the people who were on their break knew there was an emergency and then DID NOT come out, then in my mind they
[the crews] are lower than the gutter.”
“Obviously these people are worked very hard but I think even they would appreciate that saving a mans life would be more important than a tea break”

I’m not quite sure what arrangements have been made in London but elsewhere the meal-break fiasco is a result of government interference in the NHS – aka Agenda for Change.

Our hours were reduced from 40 hrs per week to 37 1/2 under AfC – effectively a 1/2 hour break per 8 hour shift. Obviously we need 24 hour per day cover so what to do about this ‘missing’ half an hour? In my county we said “let’s keep the status quo”. We’ll work 40 hours per week (i.e. no break) but accrue an extra day off (8 hour shift) after every 16 shifts. This is how it always worked under the old Whitley Council rules – and it worked well, very well. There was never a problem. Management in their wisdom said “No” and insisted we had a 1/2 hour break. Now I think anyone would agree that if you’re on a break then you’re on a break – which means if you want to ‘pop to the shops’, ‘nip over to Tesco’, etc then you should be able to do so – we’re not sitting around on the station ‘kicking our heels’ as The Sun suggests. As such, there’s little point in Control calling us at the station – we’re not there.

We told management it would cause havoc – and it has. So, when it all goes wrong the press put the blame on ‘uncaring’ crews.

Now management want to stop our breaks but only pay us if we get interrupted. Essentially meaning we’re still on duty but on a ‘retained’ basis with no possibility of going off station. We’ve told them to bugger off – either pay us to stay on duty or ‘pay’ us by way of an accumulated lieu day (Whitley) or accept that we’re off duty. It’s not that we don’t care it just that management want meal breaks covered but don’t want to pay.

I trained long and hard to do this job and it’s a career I love but, when all’s said and done, I’m an employee, I expect to be paid for when I’m on duty

If I wanted to do it for free I’d join the Johners.


6 Responses to Death by Lunch

  1. Iain MacBain says:

    Here, here. Well said. If they paid me for being at work for the 45mins I’m off in 12 hours I’d go out, but will they bugger. Actually I’d be looking for overtime rates now that I’ve had the luxury of being undesturbed.

    Like the idea of extra time off too though.

    At the end of the day the people who really know whats going on will be ok about it all. It’s the chavs that will be pissed off that they had to wait for an ambulance to attend their puking mate.

    I guess an investigation will take place and crews will be blamed somehow but really I doubt if anyone died soleley bcause a crew was having lunch. I hate the press and the way they dont bother about journalism these days, just sensationalise lies for a sale to the unwashed masses.

    Rant, rant, rant, rant, rant, rent ………………………………….

  2. BananaHammock says:

    Hmmm..this is the second similar headline from The Sun, that I’m aware of, too. I’m not sure whether it was you that brought it to my attention or Mr. Reynolds, but both have left me rather annoyed.

    The particualr service with whom I’m employed operates a system of choosing whether you wish to have a disturbed or undisturbed meal break. However, this is done at the start of the shift, before you’ve had chance to be hammered into submission by the relentless calls to non-emergency emergencies or (albeit a more unlikely senario, nine solid hours of toe-curling trauma).

    The very suggestion that any ambulance crew would rather be sat with their feet up, swilling tea and watching Jeremy sodding Kyle, than saving someone’s life is bordering on the ridiculous. I, personally, am very insulted by the suggestion. However, I would rather be sat with my feet up, swilling tea and watching Jeremy sodding Kyle, than running twenty miles on blue lights to find that I’d been called to someone that had a scab fall off their knee during the night, and were concerned because the underlying skin was slightly more pink than it was before.

    Herein lies the true problem. If we spent less time attending the utterly pointless, and the general public who are so quick to burn us in flames actually took some responsibility for their own, non-life threatening malaise, there would be enough ambulances to enforce such EU rulings as meal-breaks, without anyone having to wait so long for an emergency response.

    Since the implementation of Agenda for Change, I have seen no increase in the number of staff, yet a reduction in the number of hours in the working week, and the usual increase in the total number of calls. With these changes, I have never worked so hard, or been so exhausted in my whole life. The number of incidents that I attend has more than doubled. To then be told I’m uncaring by tabloid journalists, and those who comment upon their ramblings, is both upsetting and insulting.

    I’d like to see them work a twelve hour shift without a break, then finish three hours late, because someone ploughed a lorry into an old folks’ home, at five minutes to their finishing time!

    Rant over. For now.

  3. BananaHammock says:

    Oh. The rant isn’t over.

    See that Fireman? That one with his feet up and a second job, when he earns more than a Paramedic anyway? You don’t see his kind of bad press about them, do you?

    Where are our Press Officers?

    Rant IS over.

  4. Prof Scrub says:

    Dear Life savers,

    All this kerfuffle about half an hour here and half an hour there makes me feel like having a Kit Kat.

    Your prof on his break,
    Prof Scrub

  5. ip says:

    Yeah- compulsory breaks. I know about those. They are good for morale. They allow people to take better care of themselves. They must be taken on pain of death. I work in a field that has its share of emergencies, and no matter- at quarter of ten and two every day we must as a group, even if there is crap or blood, show up for our break. The people in a position higher than us do not have this forced on them- but we do. There have been times when this has had repercussions- but head office is clear that this is what is best…………..

  6. […] whilst the DGH is only over the road from the ambulance station and I was due to head back for my break after this. So, with the aid of the patient’s two sons, I guided him through the doors of the […]

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