“Insulting” to exclude voluntary ambulance staff from recognition scheme – Sugden

East Londonderry MLA Claire Sugden has described as “insulting” the decision to exclude frontline private and voluntary sector ambulance workers from a £500 recognition payment scheme.

The Special Recognition Payment scheme for independent healthcare workers – those not directly employed by the health service – was set up by the Department of Health as a way of showing appreciation for the work of these health workers.

Following an Assembly question from Ms Sugden, however, Minister of Health Robin Swann said staff from the private and voluntary ambulance sector were “not within the scope” of the payment.

“The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service is currently under extreme pressure, with around a quarter of workers unavailable through Covid,” Ms Sugden said. “Private and voluntary ambulance workers are needed now more than ever to ensure seriously ill and injured patients can receive the timely care they need.

“Vast numbers of other independent healthcare staff have been included in this scheme – it is baffling, not to mention insulting, that frontline workers in the ambulance sector have been consciously excluded. It is not a significantly huge sector, so there should have been a budget for them to be included.

“Minister Swann failed to give the reasons for their exclusion in his brief response to my Assembly question. I will be following this up with further correspondence and questions in order to discover these reasons and the extra cost this would have entailed.

“I have had personal experience of being in an ambulance staffed with independent and voluntary workers. The work they do is incredible – all the more because many are volunteers doing this for the good of their patients and for the good of society.

“Failure to recognise this within a scheme designed to do just that is a slight to these workers.”