Ambulance workers have protested outside the Department for Health to demand that state pension age be lowered from 68 to 60.
Under changes to the NHS pension scheme, the state pension age for ambulance staff was raised but staff say it should be 60 in line with other emergency service workers in the Fire, Police and Armed Forces.
Many feel their job will be too demanding, physically and mentally, the older they become. A senior medical technician working with the East of England Ambulance Service Trust told a GMB survey: “At 42 years of age I have already completed 14 years of service and am already suffering the effects of the job from bad knees which has already required one operation, and a bad back which will only get worse with age as the demands of the job continue to get worse.
“I do not see how a pensioner will be able to meet the physical and mental demands of the job at 68 years of age when the Ambulance service offers no kind of 'wind down' role leading towards retirement, meaning more staff will be put through Capability to get rid of the deadwood.”
Another worker with the South Western Ambulance Service said: “I am not sure that we will be physically able to work 12 hour shifts at that age. This job is physically and mentally demanding and is getting more so as each year passes. Something has to give if the government expect us to work until 68.”
Others have reported that patients could be at risk because they fear 68 is too old to continue to sustain working in often stressful circumstances, providing care to the critically ill under pressure.
The protest staged by GMB union on behalf of its members on 16 July comes after its In Harm’s Way report revealed last October that assaults on ambulance workers has gone up by over a third (36 per cent). Figures it obtained from 10 of England’s 11 ambulance trusts revealed more than 2,800 staff were attacked on duty last year up from just over 2,000 in 2013/14.
Government made changes to the retirement age under the 2015 NHS pension scheme meaning workers can retire between 65 and 68: “Changes to the NHS Pension Scheme are based on evidence that people are living longer and receiving pensions for longer; the average 60 year old now lives 10 years longer than in the 1970s,” it was announced at the time.
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