More than half of paramedics are suffering from burnout caused by the stress and pressure of coping with the pandemic and soaring workloads, a study has found.
Although the vast majority (94%) of the nearly 400 frontline paramedics who participated in the study still felt a sense of personal achievement in their role, more than 50% were also experiencing varying levels of the burnout.
The study, published in the Journal of Paramedic Practice, concluded 87% were “displaying moderate or high levels of depersonalisation” towards their work.
The causes of this stress were complex, but attributed to a combination of a perceived lack of management support, the public’s “misuse” of the ambulance service, “involuntary” overtime, and a generally poor work-life balance.
Burnout, the study authors also argued, “poses a genuine threat to retention in the ambulance service and needs addressing”.
This included the need for more proactive screening, it recommended, better communication between staff and management and wider access to counselling.
“This problem of burnout is beginning to be acknowledged but further evidence is needed to understand it in more depth in order for effective solutions to be developed,” the study concluded.
Separately, but in further evidence of the pressure the health service is under, it has emerged that NHS cancer waits have reached record highs.
An analysis for the House of Commons library, commissioned by the Labour Party, concluded nearly 300,000 people had been unable to see a cancer specialist within two weeks of an urgent referral between April and November.
The number unable to start treatment such chemotherapy or surgery within 31 to 62 days, which is the parameter the NHS tries to guarantee, was expected to exceed 75,000 for the first time.
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said the figures showed cancer care “is in crisis”, with the party arguing the number of two-week-wait breaches were now at their highest level since the target was introduced 11 years ago.
The figures follow the government last week outlining plans for a 10-year ‘national war on cancer’ to develop new therapies and even vaccines to tackle the condition.