GMB union has launched a formal dispute with the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust (WAST), citing bullying and harassment from the management over under-qualified military help.

Clinical staff have raised concerns surrounding the scale of military involvement in Emergency call outs.

Initially the Welsh Government pledged military support for ‘lower acuity, non-emergency’ work.

But trained ambulance crews have been split as untrained military personnel are used to try and plug gaps in the service.

Ambulance staff must undertake ‘blue light training’ to be able to drive an ambulance on emergency status, training that is not extended to military personnel who are instead given a two-day familiarisation course.

When members have raised concerns, management have threatened them with redundancies and registration status.

Most paramedics already believe that their status is under threat, with non blue light trained personnel unequipped for the job.

GMB union has formally lodged a dispute with the trust and written to the Welsh Government minister to raise its concerns about the extent of the Military involvement.

Part of the letter states: "Our members are reporting that some military personnel are reporting to them that they are not comfortable dealing with emergency work and have not had to deal with medical emergencies like death before.

"This is putting extra pressure on already pressured medics and also putting the military personnel into situations that could harm them with the knock on affect of endangering the public.

"Our members are contacting us daily, raising concerns of being bullied and forced to split from their regular trained crew partner to crew up with the untrained military. Several of our members have informed us that the reason for their ill health is directly as a result of being forced to work with untrained unqualified people which has affected their ability to sleep due to increased pressures. We believe this is a perfect storm, that if not dealt with quickly, will result in complete collapse of the service."

The union believes that the move further drives down staff morale, with the proportion of trust staff off due to stress and ill health over 11% and rising.

The dispute comes as GMB members are due to vote on the latest pay deal to come from the Welsh Government, with the ballot due to open on Monday, November, 15.

Nathan Holman, GMB Regional Organiser said: “Let’s be clear, threats to our members will not be tolerated.

“Our members mental health and their safety is our number one priority, and we will not accept the bullying and cajoling from the management at WAST.

“We do not object to the military assisting in low acuity, non-emergency calls, but we cannot turn a blind eye, unqualified personnel assisting in emergency situations.

“You wouldn’t bring a postman in to work with a GP or a midwife, so why would you accept an unqualified individual working alongside a paramedic.

“You cannot use under-qualified staff to plug the holes in the service.

“At the end of the day it’s not just our members jobs that are at risk, but the users of the service too.”

In response, Jason Killens, Chief Executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “We are aware of concerns being expressed by Trade Union colleagues on behalf of their members about working with the military, and these are currently being looked at.

“Regular dialogue is underway to listen and understand more about these concerns, with a further meeting scheduled for early next week.

“We remain committed to working together to understand what we can do to address matters and reduce the anxiety that some of our people are feeling.

“While we have asked for examples of staff feeling pressurised to work with military colleagues, we have not seen evidence of a systemic issue and we have seen examples of where staff are working positively with military colleagues.

“We will continue to work with Trade Union colleagues on a national basis and individuals locally to understand and address their concerns and to ensure we do everything possible to avoid any potential for a disciplinary action.

“We understand that some colleagues are concerned about the appropriateness of military support but, given high levels of absence, greater demand than ever before and extended delays at hospitals, the Board of the Welsh Ambulance Service has taken a decision that it is not prepared to stand by and see a significant number of patients experience distressingly long waits in the community because of a lack of available resources.

“In the month since the latest military deployment, and whilst delays at hospitals have remained challenging, we have had the capacity to respond to more patients and in a more timely way.

“This is the result of being able to make more vehicles and crews available because of the support we are receiving from military colleagues.”