Letters - Ambulance services

Published: 21/03/2002, Volume II2, No. 5797 Page 21

The beginning of 2000 saw South Yorkshire Ambulance Service's staff morale at an alltime low. The trust had financial problems, and the ambulances were well past their best, as was our work attire.

When chief executive Ray Shannon arrived, trade union representatives wondered if we were going to get a new approach or more of the same attitudes which had left us in such a poor position.

On first meeting, it was obvious Mr Shannon was going to do things in a different manner. Two years on, his philosophy of how you treat and include staff is becoming embedded into the culture.

This has been assisted by a change of directors, who no longer wear uniforms. We now see the manager and their abilities, rather than a person adorned with pips, shields and laurel leaves, which can be construed as intimidating, even visual bullying, all of which can affect the manner in which services are delivered.

The second phase is to take SYAS's image away from the paramilitary style and blend it into the NHS mainstream, dropping the crown badge and the staff-of-life emblem and adopting the NHS lozenge.

Instead of thinking of ourselves as an independent emergency service - trying to mirror police or fire service uniforms and rank structures - would it not be better to see our role as the NHS emergency care provider, linking with other agencies in the wider NHS to give ambulance staff multiple career pathways, instead of being stuck in one job until your back wears out.

Malc Roberts Transport and General Workers' Union Robin Symonds Unison branch secretary