Ambulance staff ‘collapsing through heat exhaustion’ under extreme pressures of hot weather

Unison says ambulance staff across the UK have reportedly been collapsing through heat exhaustion

The public in the North West have been urged to only use 999 for emergencies amid soaring weather temperatures.

North West Ambulance Service is now on level 4 of the Resource Escalation Action Plan (REAP) – which represents ‘extreme pressure’.

A North West Ambulance Service spokesperson said the additional pressure was due to the recent warm weather and increased demand.

They added: “In moving to REAP Level 4, we will be maximising all available resources, increasing staffing levels in emergency call centres and on the road.

“We urge the public to reserve the 999 service for emergencies only and consider if their GP, pharmacist or 111.nhs.uk could provide them with the medical help they need.”

Weather experts at the Met Office have issued an Amber warning for extreme heat that covers the Liverpool, Merseyside and most of the North West of England region.

Temperatures are expected to build to extremely hot levels in excess of 32℃.

The warning has been extended for a further 24-hours at the beginning of next week, starting from Sunday, 17 July at midnight.

Staff ‘collapsing’ due to hot weather

Public service union Unison claimed that ambulance staff across the UK had been ‘collapsing through heat exhaustion’.

Unison ambulance lead, Alan Lofthouse, said: "In the North West and across the UK, the heatwave is giving ambulance services a huge headache.

“Ambulance and hospital bosses must do all they can to keep staff, and those in their care, safe while temperatures soar.

"With services under severe pressure, regular rest breaks in cool areas are a must for sweltering crews, as is plenty of cold drinking water. Ambulance workers and patients alike need some respite if they’re queuing for hours in the extreme heat outside A&E departments.

"Vehicles must be well maintained and air con is essential. Any without cooling systems must be kept off the roads while the UK sizzles.

"Global warming means the current heatwave won’t be a one-off. In Australia, crews can change into shorts as the temperature soars. UK staff need a summer uniform too.

“Staff are reportedly collapsing through heat exhaustion. Employers must take action now to avoid putting their staff and patients in danger.”

Wes Streeting MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said that mismanagement of the ambulance service had left it in crisis: “Patients are left for far longer than is safe and lives are being lost as a result.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We recognise the pressure NHS staff are under, especially those on the frontline in the ambulance service, and we continue to thank them for their dedicated hard work.

“The NHS has allocated £150 million of additional funding to address pressures on ambulance services, with the number of ambulance and support staff increasing by almost 40% since February 2010.

“There is also an additional £50 million of NHS funding to support increased NHS 111 call taking capacity this year, helping people access urgent care when they need it, and use ambulances and A&E only when necessary.”