PurposeThere is a growing academic interest in the examination and exploration of work intensification in a wide range of healthcare settings. The purpose of this paper is to explore the differing staff perceptions in emergency ambulance services in the UK. It provides evidence on the challenges for the paramedic professionalisation agenda and managing operational demands and work intensity in emotionally challenging circumstances, with significant implications for patient safety.Design/methodology/approachDrawing on the evidence from an empirical study in a large National Health Service ambulance trust in England, this paper examines the challenges and differing staff perceptions of the changing scope and practice of ambulance personnel in the UK. Amidst the progress on the professionalisation of the paramedic agenda, individual trusts are facing challenges in form of staff attitudes towards meeting performance targets, coupled with rising demand, fear of loss of contracts and private competition.FindingsResearch findings highlight differing perceptions from various sub-cultural groups and lack of clarity over the core values which are reinforced by cultural and management differences. Need for greater management to explore the relationship between high sickness levels and implications for patient safety including the need for policy and research attention follows from this study. The implications of work intensity on gender equality within the ambulance settings are also discussed.Research limitations/implicationsAmbulance services around the world are witnessing a strain on their operational budgets with increasing demand for their services. Study evidence support inconclusive evidence for patent safety despite the growing specialist paramedic roles. Organisational implications of high staff sickness rates have been largely overlooked in the management literature. This study makes an original contribution while building upon the earlier conceptions of work intensification.Practical implicationsThe study findings have significant implications for the ambulance services for better understanding of the staff perceptions on work intensity and implications for patient safety, high sickness absence rates amidst increasing ambulance demand. Study findings will help prepare the organisational policies and design appropriate response.Social implicationsSocietal understanding about the organisational implications of the work intensity in an important emergency response service will encourage further debate and discussion.Originality/valueThis study makes an original contribution by providing insights into the intra-organisational dynamics in an unusual organisational setting of the emergency ambulance services. Study findings have implications for further research inquiry into staff illness, patient safety and gender issues in ambulance services. Evidence cited in the paper has further relevance to ambulance services globally.
International Journal of Emergency Services – Emerald Publishing
Published: Nov 7, 2016
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