Thousands of ambulance workers across the country are set to emerge from a pay dispute this week and later in January after unions announced strike action with paramedics and 999 call handlers.
A strike by GMB Union ambulance workers was scheduled for December 28 but has been delayed until January 11, when members of the Unison union will also be on strike.
They voted to go on strike over the government’s 4% bounty amid soaring inflation currently at 11%.
Unison said his action – which will involve five NHS ambulance services – will involve all ambulance staff, including call handlers, not just 999 response teams.
NHS sources have warned that elderly patients who collapse at home could be left without an ambulance as they are unlikely to be covered by the “life and health” insurance that will be provided during the emergency.
Meanwhile, the president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine warned that the strikes would result in seriously ill patients having to go to the A&E.
When are the dates of the ambulance strike?
Unison said his action – which will involve five NHS ambulance trusts – will involve all ambulance staff including call handlers, not just 999 response teams as was the case during the first ambulance strikes in December.
The union voted to go on strike over the government’s 4% bounty amid skyrocketing inflation, now at 11%.
Welsh ambulance workers in Unite are also set to stage two strikes on January 19 and 23.
Union members at the Welsh Ambulance Service will leave but will continue to provide cover in the event of life-threatening incidents.
Unite, which represents more than 1,000 members in the service, said 88 per cent voted to strike over a below-inflation wage offer from the Welsh government.
What areas are affected by the strike?
More than 10,000 GMB workers will leave nine trusts in England and Wales:
Southwest Ambulance Service
South East Coast Ambulance Service
North West Ambulance Service
South Central Ambulance Service
North East Ambulance Service
East Midlands Ambulance Service
West Midlands Ambulance Service
Welsh Ambulance Service
Yorkshire Ambulance Service
Ambulance crews working for five services in England represented by Unison will also go on strike. They include:
What calls will paramedics respond to?
Ambulance workers are expected to respond to the most life-threatening conditions classified as Category 1, including heart attack or sepsis.
Some ambulance trusts have also agreed exemptions with trade unions under Category 2, which covers conditions such as suspected stroke. However, most conditions in categories 2 to 4 will not be considered.
Sir Stephen Powis, NHS England’s national medical director, said on Wednesday: “We have worked very closely with trade unions to ensure emergency services are maintained for life-threatening conditions, including stroke and heart attack.
“There are more clinicians in the call center to ensure the right response to the right incident.”
He said strokes are at the upper end of category 2 cases, so clinicians will determine what response is needed, and he advised people to call 999 “as usual” if they have a life-threatening condition.
What to do if you need emergency help during a strike
The Department of Health and Social Care said the advice remains for people to call 999 in an emergency.
A spokesperson said: “Health leaders are also concerned that the prospect of strike action could affect how people choose to get involved in the NHS, but the advice remains that if it is an emergency it is important they keep calling to the number 999.
This is why people should still call 999 if they feel they need an immediate response to a life-threatening condition.