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False alarm over 999 calls

December 12th, 2006

 Ambulance shake-up “kills 12′ (Sunday Express, 7 January 2007 front page)
Two central issues are raising alarm …Secondly, for the first time ambulance teams have to take meal breaks of up to 45 minutes. These are ruled compulsory under EU law but are actually subject to local negotiation.  Before crews took breaks when and where they could during shifts so that they were always available for calls.

 Heart attack man dies as 999 crew take a rest break (Daily Mail, 6 January 2007 p.36)
Two ambulance crews were unavailable to help a dying man because they were on breaks laid down by European laws.  Under new rules to comply with health and safety and the European Working Time directives the two crews remained at th ir North London ambulance station despite receiving a 999 call…….Yesterday a London Ambulance Service spokesman admitted two crews were unable to attend because they were on “EU  rest breaks a the time of the call”.

 999 Crew on the way … after tea break (The Sun, 12 December 2006)
The European Working Time directive has come under fire for allegedly preventing ambulance crews from answering emergency call-outs during breaks.

A number of national newspapers got this one wrong by incorrectly saying that under the directive ambulance crews could not be interrupted during breaks.
In fact the Working Time Directive specifically permits breaks to be deferred in an emergency or even skipped altogether. The situation described was an issue for health service management or unions to address not a “Brussels diktat” as some commentators suggested.

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Please note that all statements in all entries were correct on the date of publication given. However, older archived posts are not systematically updated in the light of later developments, for example changes to EU law.

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