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Report into deaths of three workers tells East of England Ambulance Service Trust to act on mental health

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An independent report following the unexpected deaths of three ambulance service workers has recommended that staff are offered more training to prevent serious mental health problems developing.

Managers will get more training and staff will be given earlier help, the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) said after it published the findings today (May 13) of the investigation into the deaths. Three members of the service died suddenly during an 11-day period in November 2019 and there was criticism of mental health help for staff and the EEAST’s working culture.

The report recommends that EEAST managers will get more training and staff will be given earlier help
The report recommends that EEAST managers will get more training and staff will be given earlier help

The investigation, undertaken by independent investigator Christine Carter, began in December 2019 and involved interviewing more than 40 witnesses, including the families of the three staff members - ambulance dispatcher Luke Wright, and paramedics Christopher Gill and Richard Grimes.

The report makes 12 recommendations regarding the ambulance service's handling of mental health issues among staff. They included:

  • Producing guidance on how to manage the death of ambulance workers
  • Supporting staff experiencing mental health problems, whether at work or on sick leave
  • Training managers to help staff with mental health issues
  • Addressing sexual harassment and establishing a programme of change.

The recommendations around suicide prevention included: “The trust should consider how it can contribute to and learn from the range of suicide prevention strategies and initiatives across its catchment area, and incorporate suicide prevention into its strategic goals – in particular explore the potential for the ‘Spot The Signs – Save A Life’ campaign developed by HPFT (Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust).”

Regarding sexual harassment, the report said the trust needs to “establish a programme of change and development to address sexual harassment and change the behaviours of staff and managers that enable it to thrive.” It identified three key stands to be addressed - identifying the extent of the problem, addressing the culture, and creating a strong leadership team to manage change.

Dorothy Hosein, EEAST chief executive officer
Dorothy Hosein, EEAST chief executive officer

The trust has accepted the investigation's recommendations in full and developed an action plan to ensure the recommendations are implemented.

Dorothy Hosein, EEAST chief executive officer, said: “Losing three members of our staff in tragic circumstances is extremely sad. Each of these separate incidents reveals a deeply personal story and a terrible loss with a huge impact on families, close colleagues and across the wider service.

“We all know work and home life are not easily separated. Staff wellbeing is influenced by personal, family and other relationships and experiences, as well as their employment. This has not been reflected in some of our policies and management of issues, which are still too tightly focused on just workplace performance.

“I am committed to instilling a culture which sees, respects and cares for all staff as individuals. To do this, we will move fast to improve our well-being policies and practice so they recognise and support the whole person, in and out of uniform.”

She said the trust will take “rapid and robust action to address issues arising in the workplace, and outside of work as well”, adding: "We are already making progress on our action plan to address these recommendations. Half of our actions will be completed by the end of this month, with all the recommendations addressed by the end of September. We will continue to provide regular updates to the board and online.”

The full recommendations can be viewed here.

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