Background The COVID-19 Ambulance Response Assessment (CARA) study aimed to enable the experiences of UK frontline ambulance staff working during the first wave of the pandemic to be heard. Specifically, CARA aimed to assess feelings of preparedness and well-being and to collect suggestions for beneficial leadership support.
Methods Three online surveys were sequentially presented between April and October 2020. Overall, 18 questions elicited free-text responses that were analysed qualitatively using an inductive thematic approach.
Findings Analysis of 14 237 responses revealed participants’ goals and their requirements of leadership to enable those goals to be achieved. A large number of participants expressed low confidence and anxiety resulting from disagreement, inconsistency and an absence of transparency related to policy implementation. Some staff struggled with large quantities of written correspondence and many desired more face-to-face training and an opportunity to communicate with policymakers. Suggestions were made on how best to allocate resources to reduce operational demands and maintain service delivery, and a need to learn from current events in order to plan for the future was stressed. To further support well-being, staff wanted leadership to understand and empathise with their working conditions, to work to reduce the risks and if required, to facilitate access to appropriate therapeutic interventions.
Conclusions This study demonstrates that ambulance staff desire both inclusive and compassionate leadership. Leadership should aim to engage in honest dialogue and attentive listening. Resultant learning can then inform policy development and resource allocation to effectively support both service delivery and staff well-being.
- health policy
- medical leadership
Data availability statement
Data are available on reasonable request. De-identified participant data held by the sponsor will be made available if a reasonable request is submitted to the authors.
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Contributors PJE-W contributed to survey design and qualitative analysis of results. He drafted, revised and approved the submitted paper for publication and agreed to be accountable for it. JW contributed to survey design and qualitative analysis of results. She reviewed, revised and approved the submitted paper for publication and agreed to be accountable for it. No other individuals satisfy all four ICMJE criteria. PJE-W will act as the guarantor.
Funding This study was funded by the College of Paramedics, a unique grant awarded in response to exceptional circumstances.
Competing interests JW is Head of Research for the College of Paramedics and additionally for the South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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