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Agency paramedics offered up to £51 an hour to help plug ambulance service gaps

PUBLISHED: 17:00 03 October 2018 | UPDATED: 12:03 04 October 2018

Stock photo of an ambulance. Photo: Archant

Stock photo of an ambulance. Photo: Archant

Archant

Front line paramedics who work through agencies are being offered up to £51-an-hour to plug gaps at the region’s ambulance service ahead of another busy winter.

East of England Ambulance Trust (EEAST) has suffered with a lack of staff and vehicles for a number of years.

It is hoped a multi-million pound boost for the under-pressure service, which was announced in May, would see an extra 330 staff recruited.

But it has been emphasised this would take time, and in the meantime job adverts through recruitment agency Hays have angered permanent staff who feel they were not being looked after.

The adverts, which appear both online and in emails sent to those with CVs listed on recruitment sites, are seeking paramedics across all six EEAST counties.

EEAST could not say how many roles they were looking to fill using agency staff, what the budget was for these staff, or how much had already been spent this financial year.

But a trust spokesman did say it was typical of agency staff to attract a higher hourly rate than regular employees, and permanent staff benefitted from unsocial hours pay, paid annual leave, and pensions which agency staff did not.

While the public advert offers up to £38.55 per hour the targeted email offers up to £51 per hour plus a £250 referral reward for each paramedic sent to the agency.

Paramedic salaries start between £23,023 and £29,608, which is £11.81 to £15.18 an hour.

One paramedic, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “To me the use of a recruitment agency is the death knell for the service and a completely predictable situation to find ourselves in- the organisation being warned of failing staff retention for a number of years. The trust senior management seem unwilling to admit that staff retention should focus on maintaining good conditions for staff.”

Another paramedic said the offer of accommodation for agency staff, if shifts were more than an hour from home, was controversial, as well as staff not being offered overtime to fill these shifts.

They said: “There are students and staff that are expected to travel an hour or more to a station and work a 12 to 16 hour shift as part of their contract. What incentive is there to work for the trust?”

But an EEAST spokesman said: “There has been a long-identified capacity gap but securing the independent review of capacity led to a significant increase in investment, helping EEAST to recruit more than 300 front line staff and deploy more than 100 more ambulances.

“As the EDP has reported extensively before, EEAST faces the same challenges as other ambulance trusts with a national shortage of paramedics, and is working with the NHS system as a whole to find a long term solution. Like all other NHS employers, EEAST continues to use a mix of bank staff, agency staff, private ambulance provision and overtime to provide additional staff hours.”

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