Overstretched paramedics are “leaving in droves”, while the number of ambulance calls in England has doubled since 2010, analysis of NHS data has found.
The GMB union said there were 7.9 million calls in the 2009/10 financial year, rising to 14 million in 2021/22, an increase of 77 per cent. In the same period, the number of ambulance workers has risen by just 7 per cent.
More than 1,000 ambulance workers have left their jobs since 2018 to seek a better work-life balance, more pay, or to take early retirement, the union added.
Paramedics are staging a demonstration on Sunday outside the GMB’s annual congress in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, to highlight the pressures they are facing.
GMB national officer Rachel Harrison said: “Ambulance workers have faced more than a decade of cuts while demand has almost doubled.
“It’s no wonder they are leaving in droves while the service itself is teetering on the brink of collapse.
“The explosion in demand is due to savage cuts to essential services since 2010.
“GMB members tell us the pressures they face are the worst they have ever experienced.
“Our members face unbelievable stress and even abuse while they do their best to administer care and save lives.
“We need urgent investment across the health and care services, otherwise we risk an unprecedented crisis.”
The average response time in April for ambulances in England dealing with the most urgent incidents – calls from people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries – was nine minutes and two seconds, down from nine minutes and 35 seconds in March, which was the longest average since current records began in August 2007.
Ambulances took an average of 51 minutes and 22 seconds to respond to emergency calls for patients with conditions such as burns, epilepsy and strokes.
This was down from one hour, one minute and three seconds in March, which was the longest time on record for this category of callouts.
A video showing a nurse announcing waiting times of up to 13 hours at an Essex emergency department went viral last week, laying bare the current crisis.
The number of people in England waiting to start routine hospital treatment has risen to a record high of almost 6.4 million, up from 4.4 million before the pandemic.
And Health Secretary Sajid Javid has already said waiting lists are unlikely to start falling for at least two more years.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in October 2021 that an additional £6bn would be spent on improving NHS services over the next year.
Health leaders expressed concern that NHS workforce issues were not addressed in the Budget. NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, said staffing shortages are “the health service’s biggest problem”.
The NHS, which is the largest employer in England, has reported a shortage of nearly 84,000 FTE staff, severely affecting key groups such as nurses, midwives and health visitors.
A spokesperson for the Department of Heath and Social Care said: “Response times are affected by various factors, so we’re taking a whole-system approach.
“The NHS has allocated £150m of additional system funding to address pressure on ambulance services, and we are tackling the Covid backlog by setting up surgical hubs and community diagnostic centres – over 90 of which are already open and have delivered over a million additional checks.
“NHS staff received a 3 per cent pay rise last year, increasing nurses’ pay by about £1,000 on average despite a public sector pay freeze, and we are giving NHS workers another pay rise this year.”