Yorkshire’s ambulance service could become the first in the country to introduce random drug and alcohol testing for its paramedics, the YEP understands.
Union chiefs have told this newspaper that the Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) NHS Trust is now in talks to change its self-regulating stance on the issue, in a bid to win a lucrative patient transport service contract covering the whole of South Yorkshire.
While bus and train drivers are subjected to the tests, paramedics at YAS and similar NHS trusts are currently not.
Bryn Webster, branch secretary of public service union Unison, said: “We don’t agree with random drug testing, but we are going to have to concede that they are going to bring it in without our consent.
“I believe this will be the first ambulance trust in the country to have random drug and alcohol testing.”
He said the South Yorkshire patient transport contract would be worth hundreds of jobs, but that it required random testing to be introduced to the workforce, which could happen by the end of the month.
Unite the union said it was against the move in principle.
A YAS spokesperson said: “In common with a number of large public and private sector organisations, YAS is looking to introduce a Fitness for Work Policy as part of its commitment to the wellbeing of its staff.
“This includes ensuring that any alcohol and drug-related issues are dealt with effectively and consistently and that managers have adequate training and support to deal with staff who are seeking help.
“The trust views alcohol and drug dependency as an illness and seeks to support anyone who may be affected.
“We are yet to agree specific details on how the policy will be implemented.
“This type of approach is broadly supported by unions nationally and locally.”