Paramedics forced to take meal breaks in trial which could save £700,000

A North East Ambulance Service ambulance.
A North East Ambulance Service ambulance.

Paramedics in the North East are being forced to take set meal breaks in a trial aimed at saving the ambulance service hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Previously North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) crews were paid £5 from if they missed or had late meal breaks while on shift – costing a total of £700,000 a year.

Now health chiefs have introduced staggered meal breaks, during which they will only be dispatched to “Red One” calls – the most serious incidents such as where casualties are not breathing and do not have a pulse.

Rules mean paramedic crews must take two half-an-hour meal breaks during their 12-hour shifts, with bosses saying tired staff are more likely to make mistakes.

However, some paramedics fear lives will be put at risk as crews are grounded while they take the mandatory breaks.

Paul Liversidge, chief operating officer at North East Ambulance Service.

Paul Liversidge, chief operating officer at North East Ambulance Service.