I’m surprised no one that I know has blogged on this yet.
Basically, ambulances crews in the UK were offered 45 minutes of overtime and a 250 pound cash bonus if they were disturbed during their 30 minute unpaid tea break.
They decided to keep the tea break as is, which means they are placed out of service and are unavailable during that time.
British culture (and by default, most other place in the Commonwealth or former colonies) defines afternoon tea as sort of a “lunch break” in the late afternoon, usually around 3 pm to 5 pm but no later than 7, and included all sorts of small pastries and finger food type sandwiches. It originated at a time in English culture when the only meals were breakfast (which consisted of bread, beef, and ale) and dinner, which was originally served around noon, shifted to a massive end of day meal. [source]
I guess you could say, from a certain perspective, that taking away a tea break at mid-day or mid-shift would like denying them a lunch break. All I can say is I want a 30 minute break too. If the breaks are supervised they could go quite well. Crews would be happy they could get a breather, especially if they have been working hard, and so long as the system is still able to answer emergency calls then there shouldn’t be a problem, right?
Well, this all stems from a problem that the system had in Scotland, where an ambulance technician refused to interrupt his break to make a run. Not that I blame HIM exactly, but did they know he was on a break BEFORE they attempted to dispatch him? This could have cut down on confusion in the call center if they had known that he was out of service for his break. That way, they could have moved another ambulance to at least cover the area or cut down on response ti. There has to be some sort of two way communication.
EMS culture in the US is that you run and run and run until it’s your time to go home. Or, if you’re like me (who works in a busy system) and that you invent break times if you’re working on a busy day, you just keep a closer ear to the radio in case the dispatcher catches you on the AVL screen or a run comes up close to where you stopped for lunch/dinner/what-have-you.
It would make sense that they keep the tea break, 30 minutes of peace. But someone needs to be responsible for the crew’s area while they are breaking. It took someone to die for someone to look at this, and it’s not really anyone’s fault except the system. Proper management would have prevented a tragedy, and I hope they can reformat their policy to make it that.