As many as 25,000 emergency service workers, including ambulance drivers, begin 24 hours of industrial action today (January 11), as Health Secretary Steve Barclay admits that there will be disruption with fewer ambulances on the roads. There are also concerns the NHS is already at breaking point with admissions rates rising due to the winter weather.
The strike, which includes paramedics, call handlers, drivers and technicians from the Unison and GMB unions, has revolved around pay disputes with the Government hoping that talks on Monday would alleviate the need for workers to go on strike. Those talks however failed with negotiators on the Government side stating most ambulance staff have received a pay rise of at least 4%, above the current level of inflation.
The NHS has once again offered advice to those worried about the situation, asking those in need of medical attention to determine whether it is life threatening or not. In life-and-death circumstances members of the public should still call 999, however for any non-urgent enquiries to rely on the NHS 111 service or to make an appointment with a GP.
“We have called it life and limb conditions because some of them are in category one, some of them are in category two, and actually, some might be in category three,” the London Ambulance service’s chief executive officer Daniel Elkeles has confirmed and that there is an agreement in place that a maximum of 50% of the staff will be taking industrial action at any one time and staff will come off picket lines if call-answering times are too long
The strikes come a week before nurses continue their historic industrial action regarding pay disputes, and with discussions now emerging of a potential teachers strike and ongoing dispute with rail workers there is a concern that a general strike with all three services may take place later in the year if the matters aren’t resolved.