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Date Wed 22 June 2011

Our paramedics need their proper meal breaks - UNISON

UNISON, the union representing ambulance workers in Scotland, has hit out at ill-informed criticism of paramedics’ meal breaks.

Paramedics, along with other NHS staff, work 37.5 hours per week, with an additional 30 minute unpaid meal break each day. During these short breaks it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that adequate staff and resources are in place to cover these periods. However, statistics from the Scottish Ambulance Service show a greater increase in the number of 999 calls, than in resources.

David Forbes, regional organiser for UNISON, said: “Ambulance crews are rushed off their feet in most areas and, like all employees who work for longer than six hours a day, ambulance staff are legally entitled to an unpaid, uninterrupted break.

“Paramedics and technicians can choose to waive the right to undisturbed meal breaks for an annual payment of £250, however, the vast majority have chosen not to do so and greatly value this short, unpaid break.

“Ambulance work is very demanding and our members deal with life and death decisions day in, day out. That’s why it’s so important that staff are given a break during what are often long shifts, not only for the health and safety of our members, but also for their patients.”

The union is currently in discussions with the Scottish Ambulance Service and the Scottish Government to establish a way forward that meets the needs of both patients and staff.

He continued: “Our members are dedicated to providing the highest standards of care to the people and communities in which they serve and we are currently in negotiations with the Scottish Ambulance Service and the Scottish Government to establish a way forward that continues to provide the best care for patients and also a fair deal for our members.”


Notes to editors

1. Scottish Ambulance Service statistics show a bigger increase in 999 calls than in resources.

2. Paramedics, along with other NHS staff have, since the introduction of Agenda for Change, a standard working week of 37.5 hours which equates to 7.5 hours per day, 5 days per week with an additional half hour unpaid break each day.

3. In addition to this contractual right, the Working Time Regulations allow for every worker to have 20 minutes away from their workstation after 6 hours work.

4. For further information contact David Forbes, regional organiser for UNISON, on 0131 226 0059 or 07985 121 397.