Pre-Christmas ambulance strikes deepen

More ambulance service workers in England vote for industrial action as Unite members act to ‘save the NHS’

Reading time: 4 min

More ambulance service workers in England have voted for industrial action Unite announced on Wednesday (November 30).

With workers voting by up to 92 per cent to take action, strikes look set to begin ahead of Christmas. Unite will announce details in the coming days.

Unite’s ambulance service members say such is the decay across the entire health service, that where they once saw 10 patients a day discharged safely into hospital, they can now deal with only three, spending hours at a time sitting outside A&E with patients waiting to be seen.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “We will not sit back and watch as this government runs down our health service. This strike vote reflects the fact that ambulance staff, dedicated professionals to their core, have been left with no choice but to take a stand for the very future of the NHS itself and they have Unite’s 100 per cent support.

“Make no mistake, what the government is doing is a deliberate act of national self-harm,” she added. “This is a political choice that the government knows will put the NHS on life support.

“They know exactly what to do to avert these strikes. It begins with urgently getting around the table with the NHS unions to address the crisis in staff and pay levels. There is absolutely no point having make-believe plans for the NHS if you have no staff left.”

Over a decade of pay cuts and crippling service pressures have decimated NHS recruitment and retention – a primary cause of the crisis engulfing the service. Nearly one in 10 posts – 132,000 positions – are now vacant and the figure is continuing to grow. October was the worst on record for meeting the NHS targets.

Unite members in the ambulance service confirm that many category one and category two calls are not meeting with a response.

Unite member George Dusher, who voted yes for action, said, “It’s carnage at the moment – the worst I’ve ever seen it. People are ringing for an ambulance and are then stuck waiting on the floor for ten hours because we can’t get to them. We’re not getting to cardiac arrests quickly enough because of delays.

“I used to see up to 10 patients during a shift, now it’s just three or four because of the delays in hospital admissions,” he added.

“Paramedics get into debt to train for this job, but the pay is too low and the stress is too high. It used to be that you’d leave half an hour after shift. Now it is one, two or even three hours. It’s too much and people are leaving.”

By Ryan Fletcher