Ambulance staff in Wiltshire are up in arms about proposed changes to shift patterns.

They say the proposals put forward by consultants employed by Great Western Ambulance Service will significantly disrupt their work life balance and many have called for Unison to take industrial action.

Existing shift patterns in Wiltshire include 7am to 7pm and some of the proposed changes are 8am to 8pm and 9am to 9pm. The proposals would also result in ambulance staff working 75 per cent of their weekends compared to 50 per cent currently.

Some staff are also going to be posted to other stations including three Chippenham based emergency care practitioners who will be moved to Swindon and Bath, with five remaining at Chippenham.

The changes, due to come in on November 1, are being proposed to improve ambulance response times and to match crews to the demand.

GWAS has been consulting with staff over the proposals but staff believe it is a sham because at one appeal hearing a Unison representative accompanying a member of staff said there was a note on the front of the employee’s appeal letter with the word ‘Reject’ written on it before the hearing had started.

A paramedic, who has worked in the ambulance service for 20 years, said: “There is a widespread feeling of discontent. We rarely finish our shifts on time as we are responding to 999 calls. If the shifts change it will mean we will be working even later.”

Another experienced paramedic said: “The changes are an absolute disaster and morale is through the floor. If we have to change to 8am to 8pm the reality is that we will finish work at about 10pm because of late jobs.”

Dan Tucker, interim branch secretary of the Avon and Wiltshire sector for Unison and who is a paramedic in Bath, said: “We have a lot of employees who have children and getting home later in the evening is a big issue for them. We understand there is a need for change to meet patient demand but we feel the changes have been done as a blunt instrument. ”

Tim Stockings, associate director of GWAS, said: “We need to change where our ambulances are but more importantly when they are put out.

“We have recruited 81 extra front line staff, including 20 in Wiltshire, to meet the demand of patients. This is an investment programme and is good news.

“We are still in discussion with staff, the vast majority of whom have accepted the changes. We do understand it is unsettling for some and it can cause some issues for staff. We are doing our best to mitigate those but fundamentally we have to change to put out cars and ambulances when patients need us. I make no apologies for putting patients first.”

He said the changes would result in more staff being on duty at night, reducing shift overruns.

He said he was not aware of the appeal hearing where the ‘reject’ note was seen.