STRESS accounted for more than a quarter of sick days among ambulance staff in Yorkshire and the Humber last year.

Figures released by NHS Digital show that paramedics in our region took a total of 6,280 days off because of anxiety, stress, depression and other stress-related illnesses between July 2017 and June 2018. That accounted for 27.1 per cent of the 23,145 days lost for all reasons.

Separate workforce figures show there are a total of 1,819 full-time paramedic or equivalent frontline staff at Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) NHS Trust. It suggests each full-time paramedic is losing an average of 3.4 days a year to stress.

Nick Smith, executive director of operations at YAS NHS Trust, said: “We recognise that our frontline staff have an incredibly challenging role, often in difficult circumstances, and have faced additional pressure due to the ever-increasing demands placed on our emergency service. We take the health and wellbeing of our workforce very seriously and we have support mechanisms in place. Our health and wellbeing strategy has a clear focus on healthy minds and local managers are focused on post-incident support.”

“All of our frontline supervisors are being trained to be mental health first aiders and our staff have access to counselling services through external specialists.

“We work closely with our trade union colleagues to ensure the most appropriate initiatives are developed and we regularly signpost our staff to national programmes such as the MIND Blue Light programme as additional sources of support and guidance.”

YAS was formed in July 2006 following a merger of the county’s three former services. It covers most of Yorkshire, encompassing nearly 6,000 square miles of varied terrain, from isolated moors and dales to urban areas, coastline and inner cities.

As well as full-time staff, YAS is assisted by some 1,150 volunteers, who help to provide a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week, emergency and healthcare service for more than five million people across the region.

YAS receives an average of over 2,500 emergency and routine calls a day. In 2017-18 it responded to 780,383 incidents through either a vehicle arriving on scene or by telephone advice.

Across England, stress related sickness was responsible for 21 per cent of all paramedic absences over the period.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Ambulance staff work incredibly hard in a high-pressure environment and as the long-term plan sets out, we are supporting them through faster access to mental health and physiotherapy services.

“We are committed to improving staff wellbeing and with record numbers of staff working in the sector, it is positive to see the proportion of ambulance staff absence rates lowering every year for the past five years.”