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Friday, 28 June, 2002, 22:57 GMT 23:57 UK
Ambulance staff hit by trauma
Ambulance van
A rise in attacks and workload is blamed
Almost two thirds of ambulance staff are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and many are unable to work effectively, according to doctors.

Delegates at the Ambulance Service Association's annual conference in Harrogate will hear that increased attacks on staff and extra workload are having a devastating effect on personnel.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Gordon Turnbull will tell the conference that the situation is alarming.

There is a problem

Dr Gordon Turnbull
He will call for better training and counselling for staff to help them cope and to enable them to continue working.

Dr Turnbull will say that an alarming number of ambulance staff are presenting with trauma symptoms, including depression, irritability, nightmares, poor concentration, poor memory and startled reactions.

Many are left feeling they have no control over events which, according to Dr Turnbull, could affect their ability to treat patients.

Growing problem

"We estimate that approximately 60% of ambulance staff are feeling this way. The figure was demonstrated through a study in Scotland.

"This is not small fry and there is an increasing realisation that there is a problem and it is beginning to be taken seriously."

He will tell delegates that helping staff to cope with problems is more cost effective than allowing them to retire from the NHS.

Dr Turnbull will call for improved training of staff to boost awareness of trauma and its consequences.

He will also call for state-of-the-art debriefing procedures run by counsellors to address the emotional reactions of staff to incidents.

Richard Diment, chief executive of the Ambulance Service Association, said the situation was causing concern among members.

"They recognise they need to ensure that staff are able to offer essential help to the public without an adverse impact on their well-being and are working with their staff and experts in the field to address this issue."

Carl Ledbury, vice-chairman of the Association of Professional Ambulance Personnel, said it was time the needs of staff were addressed.

"It is nice to hear that this is being recognised officially. It has been an unrecognised plague within ambulance services for all staff."

See also:

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