Paramedics have been left “traumatised” during the coronavirus pandemic after patients died unnecessarily because they had delayed seeking treatment.
Patients have been reluctant to go to hospital through fears of both overwhelming the NHS and contracting the virus, Paul Younger, the chairman of the College of Paramedics, said.
“The last thing we want is patients who need our help delaying that help,” he said.
Some paramedics arrived to find patients severely unwell after they had put off contacting emergency services, which has taken a toll on workers, Mr Younger said.
“Particularly in the first part [of the pandemic] there was the increase in deaths that were reported, and obviously that has an impact,” he said.
Julia Patterson, the chief executive of campaign group Every Doctor, said clinicians reported that paramedics have experienced “loads and loads of trauma” due to patients not receiving the help they needed in time.
“There were stories of ambulances turning up in people’s homes and simply didn’t arrive in time, and people dying of things that they wouldn’t usually have died of,” she said.
After the first virus wave, paramedics sought help with their mental health from charities and associations, Mr Younger said.
“The college has been working to support paramedics, who can find it very challenging and having to deal with this time and time again,” he added. “It’s not just the single job, it’s the repetition.”
Faye McGuinness, the head of workplace well-being programmes at Mind, said paramedics have been working under “extreme pressure” and forced to make “impossible decisions, including allocating scarce resources to equally needy patients”.
One East Midlands-based paramedic, who did not want to be named, told The Telegraph the “sheer number” of policy changes has been “stressful”, saying: “Each hospital changed their policies and had different entrances and phone numbers we were to call … and of course the ambulance service had numerous PPE policies, but these were changing all the time.”