Ambulance Trusts - a peculiar payroll animal
By Sarah Summerbell
An ambulance trust payroll is particularly peculiar and differs from a standard NHS trust or other NHS organisation in a number of ways.
Ambulance trusts are a fairly new innovation in the world of the NHS. Local authorities ceased control over ambulance services in 1974 but the current set-up of 13 regional ambulance trusts only came into being in 2006. During this reduction 26 trusts with various terms and conditions were combined under single umbrellas and while this myriad of contractual obligations are being slowly phased out they, along with the challenges associated with mobile workforces and anti-social hours, are typical of the challenges faced in running an ambulance trust payroll.
Ambulance trusts offer two services which are remarkably different in their payroll complexity. Patient Transport Services (PTS) operated on a more conventional shift basis, moving patients between hospitals or to and from their homes. The working patterns here reflect more of a traditional payroll environment. Emergency services work on a completely different basis and that is where the challenges occur.
Ambulance trusts, being regional, cover a wider geographical area than a typical NHS organisation. They are therefore dispersed into smaller business units. This presents challenges in obtaining payroll data and self-service becomes all important. While each ambulance team will have a notional base, many first responders spend their time parked up at roadside venues waiting for inevitable calls or otherwise working remotely. Keeping track of hours worked becomes imperative. In addition to this there are crews who work nights on a permanent basis as the service is 24/7, meaning that payroll providers need to be on hand at all times.
The irregular aspect of the role is underlined by the arrangements for breaks and particularly the ‘disturbed meal allowance’ which entitles staff to an allowance should their meal-time be disturbed by an urgent call. Payroll needs to take account of these frequent events and also the differing terms and conditions that ensure different allowances in different circumstances. The nature of the job also ensures that shifts frequently overrun.
Legislation treats some elements of an ambulance trust employees’ benefits in kind in a unique way as well. The most notable example of this is how company vehicles fitted with a blue light are viewedon P11Ds. If a car is fitted with a permanent light, it is not a ‘car’ for tax purposes but rather an asset placed at an employee’s disposal. This would affect managers and other staff who have a blue light fitted but who are not first responders but rather back up in the event of a major incident.
Equiniti has been working with ambulance trusts for ten years and currently provides payroll services to two ambulance trusts and ten other NHS trusts. As NHS payroll specialists we are ideally placed to offer an accurate and cost effective payroll service.
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To find out more get in touch with our NHS payroll team at firstname.lastname@example.org