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PTSD, available support and development of services in the UK Ambulance Service

02 June 2017
Volume 9 · Issue 6


The role of front line ambulance staff in the UK has developed so rapidly that it is almost unrecognisable from days gone by, when scoop and run tactics were commonplace. With additional responsibilities, pressurised decision making and a range of sometimes complex interventions, unique pressures have also developed. The purpose of this article is to review pertinent information relating to how these additional pressures can metamorphose into specific conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The prevalence of this and other debilitating conditions such as depression and anxiety specific to the ambulance service is reflected upon, whilst existing support from the ambulance service is examined. By broadening both knowledge and confidence relating to this increasingly significant problem, formulation of our own local improvements can take place in the near future.

As pre-hospital management and care has advanced considerably throughout the decades, indeed so has the many and varied pressures associated with front line duties. In addition to sometimes extremely complex and challenging pharmacological, physical and mental health interventions, frequently required time sensitive critical decision making regarding not only scene management at major incidents but also relating to additional lifesaving interventions, pathway and referral use, and ultimately patient destination are a necessity at many incidents.

These factors, coupled with general work pressures such as unsociable shift patterns and training commitments, everyday stresses like health or relationship problems, occasionally culminate into life-changing conditions within the ambulance and pre-hospital care community. Unfortunately, these problems have been seen to affect fellow colleagues and friends more increasingly in recent years, resulting in a negative influence on not only performance, but moral, motivational and general well being. These firsthand observations are also mirrored by both media (Kirk, 2015) and ambulance union reports (Unison, 2015), and backed by various statistics offered by The Workforce and Facilities Team Health and Social Care Information Centre (2014). This suggests that ambulance service sickness levels throughout the UK have steadily risen since at least 2009, and are far higher than all other NHS organisations regarding sickness incidents.

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