London Ambulance staff are to be offered new cars in a bid to reverse plummeting morale and prevent them quitting their jobs.
Almost one in five paramedic posts in the capital are vacant – leading to the worst 999 response times in the country and leaving the remaining staff stressed and burned-out.
Ambulance chiefs this week approved an eight-point plan to retain staff and attract former and new employees to the service, with a “salary sacrifice” scheme to lease a car among the proposed incentives.
It comes after 225 job offers were made last week to Australian paramedics to join the London Ambulance Service, in addition to the 175 who were recruited last September.
Concerted action was ordered to improve staff conditions after the annual NHS staff survey found high and rising levels of dissatisfaction among front-line crews and support staff at London Ambulance Service.
A total of 62 per cent of LAS staff said they would not recommend it as a place to work, while 35 per cent said they would be concerned if a friend or relative received medical care.
Dr Fionna Moore, LAS interim chief executive, said of the staff survey: “We have never seen results as poor as this.”
An internal report said some staff suffered “bullying”, and found a “negative culture” that was “strong and growing”. Leavers said their treatment at work, rather than low pay, was the main reason for them to quit.
Other staff initiatives include a cycle to work scheme, help with affordable housing and discounts on computers and mobile phones. There will be “stress management programmes”, a “zero tolerance” approach to bullying and harassment, flexible working hours and newer ambulances.
LAS chairman Richard Hunt told the trust board it was time to “draw a line in the sand” to prevent morale and the vacancy rate worsening. He said: “What we are trying to do here is create an organisation that people want to stay working for, and come back and work for.”
Last month the LAS arrived at 67.1 per cent of the most serious calls, and 58.7 per cent of second-priority emergencies, within eight minutes. The 75 per cent NHS target is not expected to be met until the Autumn.
The service is 330 paramedics short of target but has for the first time recently seen the number of arrivals outweigh those leaving. There were 1,363 front-line paramedics in post in January.
A trial to give call dispatchers extra time to assess a 999 call before sending an emergency response is to be extended for a further month, the board was told.