Paramedics Alarmed by Late Retirement Age
May 11, 2012, Press Dispensary. What would the public think of paramedics, approaching their 70th birthday, still dealing with major trauma, medical emergencies, drunks, lifting and carrying patients down stairs, driving at critically high speeds and dealing with the huge range of situations that ambulance clinicians have to, on a daily basis?
This is the scenario faced by NHS paramedics under the new pension rules that the Government would like to introduce, under which 67 year-olds will be expected to carry out the full range of paramedic duties. The alarming prospect has prompted the paramedic professional body, the College of Paramedics (CoP) to write to Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude directly, urging him to rethink the situation and bring ambulance service staff in line with other frontline emergency staff.
In the letter, CoP Chair Professor Andy Newton compares the current retirement age of other emergency service staff. "Presently ambulance clinicians are able to achieve a full pension after 40 years service, at 65 years old. The Fire Services front line personnel are able to retire at 55 years and police officers at 60 years old
". The new rules, says Prof. Newton, will turn an already disparate situation into one that is "unfair and unreasonable
Paramedics have traditionally held the record for the worst early ill-health retirement rates in the NHS, due to largely musculo-skeletal problems but also cancers and heart disease at much higher than average rates. Professor Newton goes on: Emergency ambulance clinicians are exposed to high degrees of physical and psychological stress and equal, or greater, danger on a frequent basis. In comparison with the general public and more interestingly with other groups of health professionals it is well known that ambulance clinicians simply do not make retirement age and if they do, on average, they often do not enjoy a long retirement.
There is the very real possibility that if the changes go ahead, the UK public will be cared for by paramedics nearing their 70th birthday, these staff will be expected to carry out the full range of practice which includes all manner of 999 emergencies. Paramedics, who statistically are also at the forefront of violence to NHS staff, are expected to routinely deal with everything and anything that presents through the 999 system.
Prof. Newton concludes that the changes are “simply unachievable
” and present an unacceptable risk to the future emergency workforce and hence national emergency resilience in general.
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Notes for editors
About the College of Paramedics
The College of Paramedics is the professional body for UK paramedics. Formed in 2002, originally as the British Paramedic Association it represents the professional interests of paramedics and student paramedics. It is not a trade union.
Paramedics are health professions that are regulated by law and form one of the Allied Health Professions (as defined by the Department of Health). Although not directly representing other non-registered ambulance service clinical staff, the College are equally concerned for other frontline emergency ambulance staff, such as ambulance technicians and emergency care assistants, who routinely work under the leadership of paramedics. All emergency ambulance clinical staff are affected by the proposed changes.
Professor Andy Newton has been Chair of the College of Paramedics for two years and is also a Consultant Paramedic and Operations Director at South East Coast Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust
The Rt Hon Francis Maude MP
Minister for the Cabinet Office & Paymaster General
Thank you for attending the Parliamentary reception last summer, which demonstrated so well the scope and importance of the paramedic role, not only within the NHS ambulance services but within the military too.
The College of Paramedics, as you know is a professional body and not a trades union – however we have observed with growing concern the negotiations taking place regarding public sector pensions. Our primary concern relates to the increased retirement age proposed for the NHS pension scheme with regard to ambulance clinicians and the impact this will have on the fitness to practice of our members, based upon the emergence of occupational health evidence that supports this view.
I am sure that you are already acutely aware of the disparity between the Armed Forces, Fire Service and Police services pensionable age as compared to that of frontline NHS emergency ambulance clinicians. Presently ambulance clinicians are able to achieve a full pension after 40 years service, at 65 years old. The Fire Services front line personnel are able to retire at 55 years and police officers at 60 years old.
There is absolutely no question whatsoever about the comparability of roles – emergency ambulance clinicians are exposed to high degrees of physical and psychological stress and equal, or greater, danger on a frequent basis. In comparison with the general public and more interestingly with other groups of health professionals it is well known that ambulance clinicians simply do not make retirement age and if they do, on average, they often do not enjoy a long retirement.
Emerging occupational health literature on the welfare of ambulance clinicians suggests various reasons for this including the ever increasing workload, the traumatic events that our members are exposed to, the unique physical challenges of the uncontrolled pre-hospital environment in which our members work and the stresses of unsocial hours. It should be recognised that in a nation where obesity is on the increase, it is quite plausible that, under current proposals, a 67 year old paramedic would be required to carry a 25 stone patient down the stairs. The College is of the strong opinion that this is neither safe nor sustainable.
The College recognises the very real challenges facing the government in ensuring that public sector spending is perceived to be good value for money. However, the College of Paramedics asserts that both the current and proposed arrangements are extremely unfair and unreasonable. The proposed retirement age for ambulance clinicians is simply unachievable due to the unique nature of work in this emergency service.
We note that media reports during the recent industrial action suggested the Government is extremely worried about the resilience of the ambulance services nationally. The College of Paramedics and its members share concerns over situations such as these, which serve to place a large number of the country’s circa 12,500 NHS paramedics at odds with their desire to serve the general public.
The College would therefore request that your department seek to address the considerable and inappropriate inequity in terms of retirement age between the country’s emergency service workers to protect these important professionals as well as ensuring continued resilience of this important emergency service for the future. Representatives of the College of Paramedics would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and your ministerial colleagues to discuss our concerns in more detail.
Professor Andy Newton, FCPara
Chair, College of Paramedics
The Rt Hon Andrew Lansley CBE MP
Secretary of State for Health
Department of Health
Richmond House, 79 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2NS
The (Rt Hon. the) Earl Howe
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Quality
Department of Health
Ms Anne Milton MP
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Public Health
Department of Health
For further information, please contact:
David Davis, College of Paramedics
Tel: 01278 427212
Mr James Petter, Dir. Professional Standards
College of Paramedics
Tel: 07411 315 011 / 01278 42 0014
College of Paramedics Head Office