'Bullying and Harassment' Claim from Low-Morale Ambulance Staff; Overall Improvements Hit by Poor Performance in the South East
Byline: Madeleine Brindley
STAFF morale at the under-fire ambulance service has plummeted amid accusations of management bullying and harassment, a scathing report published today claims.
An investigation by the National Assembly's audit committee said staff believe that there is a culture of bullying and harassment in the trust.
It found that the strength of feeling among staff was beyond the low morale usually associated with organisational change. The Welsh Ambulance Service has been undergoing modernisation since Alan Murray was appointed chief executive two years ago.
The report highlighted "unacceptable aspects of performance", including poor response times in South East Wales and hospital handover times.
The Welsh Ambulance Service has been repeatedly criticised for its poor 999 response times in the past year, despite initial improvements since Mr Murray took control of the service.
It has the worst category A - life-or-death - response times in the UK. Just 59.4% of all calls were answered within eight minutes at the end of August - the all Wales target is 65%.
But in some parts of Wales, including Powys, Torfaen, Monmouthshire and Ceredigion, less than half of ambulances reached a 999 call within eight minutes.
The report said: "Despite the overall improvements in ambulance responses, there remain some unacceptable aspects of performance. Poor performance remains in the South East region, and hospital handover and turnaround times are fundamental to this performance.
"There is unacceptable day-to-day variability in performance and there is a lack of equity in ambulance responses across the different geographical areas of Wales." It said rising fuel costs will add to the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust's financial problems - it must make pounds 17m of savings this year and a further pounds 23m in 2009-10.
David Melding, a Conservative South Wales Central AM and chair of the audit committee, said: "The chief executive and the trust board have done well to respond to what has been an extremely challenging time for the organisation and they have taken good strides under difficult circumstances. …