Ambulance workers striking in January 2023. Photo: Paul Mattsson
Ambulance workers striking in January 2023. Photo: Paul Mattsson

Ambulance worker

7,000 ambulance staff have left the service in the last year, as reported in the Guardian on 22 August, up 51% compared to three years ago.

Earlier this year, the government launched the Long-Term Workforce Plan – their plan to improve staffing with recruitment and retention across the NHS (see ‘Tory fairytale NHS staffing plan’ on

But for the ambulance service it’s not getting new people in that’s the problem, it’s keeping them. There is a constant flow of recently graduated, inexperienced staff, with ever-increasing responsibility placed on them; including to support and train new starters, while they’re brand new themselves.

Staff aren’t getting support with transitioning from students to clinicians, or for the increasing pressure on the service. Ambulance calls have doubled since 2010, as other parts of the underfunded NHS struggle to meet demand.

The result is a quick turnover of staff. Nobody joined to wait outside hospitals for hours, or to leave patients waiting for hours in pain, or for patients who don’t need ambulances but can’t get routine GP, district nurse or mental health appointments. Nobody joined for patients to die unnecessarily as a result of delayed ambulances, as nearly a third of paramedics in the GMB union believe happened in 2022.

The Long-Term Workforce Plan covers issues of retention, including pay and lack of support for newly qualified staff. It aims to address these, but does not indicate how. How will new staff be better supported when there are fewer and fewer experienced staff to support them? How will pay concerns be improved when it took weeks of strike action to get a begrudging 5.2% pay rise – a real-terms pay cut?

Until the deliberate, systematic attacks on the NHS are stopped, and it is brought fully back into public ownership, properly staffed and democratically organised by its workers, the numbers leaving will only get worse.