The number of frontline staff leaving ambulance services across England has almost doubled in the last five years, analysis by HSJ has found.

  • Number of paramedics and technicians leaving has doubled since 2010
  • East of England Ambulance Service and London Ambulance Service had the highest number of leavers
  • Staff moving to A&E, NHS 111, government departments and jobs abroad

HSJ sent freedom of information requests to all 10 ambulance trusts in the country asking how many paramedics and technicians had left the organisation over the past five years.

The responses showed that staff were leaving in increasing numbers. At the nine trusts which provided year by year data, the number of frontline staff leaving jumped from 626 in 2010-11 to 1223 in 2014-15.

Ambulance staff leaving numbers

East of England Ambulance Service did not provide an annual breakdown, but said 1,859 had left over the five years.

These numbers do not include staff who have died, reached retirement age or explicitly told trusts they had resigned because of personal circumstances.

Staff were going to work in accident and emergency departments, urgent care centres and NHS 111 call centres, ambulance service leaders have said.

However, not all trusts provided detail on why employees had resigned.

Martin Flaherty, managing director of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, said paramedics were an “increasingly valuable resource” across the health service and more widely, with some joining the Department of Work and Pensions.

He said: “There are more career opportunities for paramedics than ever before in other areas of the NHS and in the private sector, leading some to want to work elsewhere, for example in hospital A&E departments, urgent care centres, NHS 111, abroad or in other government departments, such as the DWP.”

East of England and London ambulance services had the highest number of staff leaving over five years.

Out of the 390 employees who gave a reason for voluntarily resigning from East of England Ambulance Service between 2010 and 2015:

  • 146 resigned because of the work-life balance;
  • 116 wanted a better rewards package; and
  • 38 because of a lack of opportunities.

The trust had not provided a comment by the time HSJ published this story.

A spokeswoman for London Ambulance Service said: “Every year demand increases and, in addition to this, we’re facing a shortage of paramedics in the UK, which we know puts pressure on our staff. There are also more opportunities for them now compared to five years ago, for example, working in emergency departments, for NHS 111 or going abroad.”

At South Central Ambulance Service Trust 32 people left in 2010-11, rising to 100 in 2014-15. Last year 28 voluntarily resigned because they wanted a better work-life balance, and six left because of a “lack of opportunities”.

A spokeswoman for South Central said that while staff numbers had “naturally fluctuated” there has been an “overall upward trend” over the last five years.

While the majority of ambulance trusts did not reveal the specific destinations of outgoing employees, South Central said nine staff had moved to Oxford Health Foundation Trust in the last two years.

Health Education England has increased the number of training places for paramedics by 44 per cent in its 2015-16 national workforce plan.

However, the plan notes: “These additional commissions, however, will not produce qualified paramedics until 2016-17, and our forecasts suggest a potential gap between demand and supply in the coming year.

“We have therefore recommended that paramedics are placed on the government’s shortage occupation list, and HEE will work with ambulance leaders and wider system partners to discuss our data (which only covers the NHS) and agree action to ensure sufficient supply in advance of our new trainees qualifying.”

This story has been updated to include figures from London Ambulance Service that were provided after publication