BRITAIN’S emergency services are “heading for disaster” as continued financial attacks on the public sector have left staff “bereft of morale, stressed and undervalued,” a research paper warned yesterday.
The report from the University of Wolverhampton and Keele University found that government spending cuts piled extra pressure on managers, leading to “intensified and extended working conditions” for staff.
Managers were found to have introduced detrimental changes to jobs and the workplace, including increasing the use of cheaper and less skilled “assistant roles,” such as Police Community Support Officers and ambulance technicians.
The privatisation and civilianisation of workforces were also revealed as damaging responses to cope with austerity.
It said these strategies posed an “increased risk to the public,” particularly in rural areas because of the resultant weakening of community relations in police forces, as well as the use of lower-skilled or underqualified crews staffing ambulances and neglect of crucial fire and accident prevention work in the fire service.
Unison national officer for ambulance staff Alan Lofthouse told the Star: “There’s a national crisis in the ambulance service because of an extreme lack of funding across every part of the NHS.
“The relentless pressures of the job mean experienced staff are leaving and aren’t being replaced quickly enough because of the cash squeeze.
“The government must come up with extra cash for the NHS so all its staff are able to give the best possible care to everyone who needs help.”
Co-author of the report Professor Roger Seifert said: “Management strategies adopted to address workforce challenges in the climate of austerity have created a false economy where decisions are taken for political expedience rather than sustainable workforce planning.
“With real-terms budget cuts and a squeeze on staff pay, morale in the emergency services is unsurprisingly low.
“Yet public expectations for an effective, timely response to emergencies remain unchanged.”
The research concluded that if the pattern continues, there will be “disastrous outcomes,” including low morale, poor employee relations and inappropriate workforce organisation.