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Exclusive: The government is asking paramedics to become HGV drivers

“There are fantastic opportunities in the logistics industry” reads the letter from The Department for Transport sent to paramedics who are currently employed by the NHS to drive ambulances.

A South Western ambulance by the side of the road

Ambulance drivers hold C1 HGV licenses. Image: lee British fire rescue pics/Flickr

The government is pleading with paramedics to become HGV drivers and help solve the ongoing supply crisis.

Letters have been sent to one million HGV licence holders across the UK explaining the “fantastic HGV driving opportunities in the logistics industry”.

Among them are NHS paramedics, who hold a category 1 licence as part of their training to drive ambulances. One worker who received the letter told The Big Issue his workplace was already “chronically short” of staff and relying on firefighters to drive ambulances.

There is now a shortage of more than 100,000 qualified drivers in the UK according to a survey by the Road Haulage Association of its members. 

Army HGV drivers have been put on standby to relieve the shortage of truckers and resulting food and petrol shortages.

“There are fantastic HGV driving opportunities in the logistics industry and conditions of employment and pay have been improving across the sector” read letters seen by the Big Issue and sent to paramedics working in Bristol.

“As well as attractive pay rates, we are seeing more options for flexible working, fixed hours, fixed days, full-time and part-time,” the letters continue. 

The C1 licence held by paramedics is the most basic level of HGV training and licensing. As well as ambulances, the license allows holders to drive vehicles weighing up to 7.5 tonnes, including small lorries, trucks and tractors. 

Drivers holding a C1 license may drive smaller refrigerated trucks such as those often used by supermarkets in home deliveries, and horse-box sized delivery vehicles often used by local delivery companies.  

“I wasn’t expecting it. I’ve never thought of being a HGV or delivery driver before”, a lead paramedic who has been working as a paramedic for seven years told The Big Issue. 

“It would be much more fun to drive around all day and stop for Costa, as opposed to stop for people who have been stabbed.”

“I’ve been promoted recently so my pay is good, but I can definitely see how some of the new people or the new care assistants that work on the ambulances might love that.”

A letter sent by the government to anyone with an HGV licence asking them to help solve the driver shortage.
A letter sent by the government to anyone with an HGV licence asking them to help solve the driver shortage.

Asked whether he thought his ambulance station could spare a few drivers to help plug the Britain’s HGV driver shortage, the Bristol-based paramedic replied:

“We’re chronically short, we’re dropping shifts every day. We’re relying on the fire brigade driving our ambulances for us we’re so short. It wouldn’t surprise me if they got letters as well.”

The letter was automatically sent to almost one million people with HGV driving licenses, and it was “impossible to narrow the copy-list by profession due to personal data protection” a DfT spokesperson said.

“We don’t want ambulance drivers to change jobs, or to be diverted from their vital work saving lives,” they continued.

Letters appear to have also been sent to ambulance staff in Scotland, according to posts shared on social media.

“The UK Government trying to poach Scottish Ambulance staff to drive HGV’s is a pretty poor move,” wrote one Twitter user, posting a picture of a similar letter online.

The military have been called in to alleviate a crisis in the Scottish Ambulance Service, according to the BBC. 

“Adding to the already significant pressure on the ambulance service by robbing Peter to pay Paul isn’t going to help” said UNISON national officer Colm Porter.

“Enticing scarce staff away will pile the pressure onto the service, resulting in long wait 999 times, with potentially deadly consequences.”

Up to 4,000 people will soon be able to take advantage of training courses to become HGV drivers, as part of a package of measures announced by the government to ease temporary supply chain pressures in food haulage industries.

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