Saturday, 25 Mar 2023

Minister accuses unions of putting patients at risk during strikes

Health secretary Steve Barclay accuses ambulance unions of putting patients at risk with chaotic plans for handling emergencies during strikes – as Brits are told to use their ‘common sense’ and only ring 999 for a ‘life or limb’ emergency

  • Do YOU support striking NHS ambulance workers? Vote here and tell us why…
  • READ MORE: Everything you need to know about today’s NHS 999 strike 
  • AMBULANCE STRIKE LIVE: NHS workers walk-out TODAY after public warned to only call medics for a ‘life or limb’ emergency

Health Secretary Steve Barclay has criticised how ambulance unions have handled today’s industrial action across England and Wales.

Sky News asked him whether he agreed with comments made made by Business Secretary Grant Shapps that striking paramedics were being ‘reckless’.

The Health Secretary replied: ‘If there are delays to ambulances, then it is concerning in terms of our ability to get that care.’

‘It is clearly a concern as to the impact it has on patient safety.’

Up to 25,000 ambulance staff held strike action today in an ongoing dispute with Government about pay. Pictured: Ambulance workers on the picket line outside East Midlands Ambulance Service today

Health Secretary Steve Barclay has been critical of how unions have organised the strike, claiming patients have been put at risk 

Asked about whether anti-strike legislation the UK Government announced in Parliament this week would look to prosecute striking workers, Mr Barclay said: ‘It is about the behaviour much more of the unions than individual members.

‘For example, there is a marked difference between what we’ve seen with the RCN (Royal College of Nursing), who put national arrangements in place to guarantee safety, and what we’ve seen with the ambulance strikes, where even up to midnight last night I was getting calls in terms of what arrangements would be in place in terms of the local cover, the minimum safety levels that would be in place, because ambulance unions had refused to do that at a national level,’ he said.

His comments comes as the public were urged to avoid calling 999 during today’s ambulance strike with health leaders fearing it will leave the health service in an even worst position than the December walkouts. 

Up to 25,000 paramedics and support staff – including call handlers – will walk out across the country for the second time this winter in an ongoing dispute over pay.  

NHS managers expressed concern that the new wave of walkouts would cause more ‘significant disruption’ than December strikes, leaving the health service in ‘an even more precarious position’.

Union leaders have promised life and limb cover but government sources have expressed concerns about a lack of agreement over emergency care. 

Ambulances parked outside London Ambulance Service HQ in London this morning as Unison members of the service take part in strike action

Sources said a lack of agreement on contingency planning was concerning and could be included in the minimum-service legislation the government is considering. 

Today’s 24-hour walkout involves paramedics, drivers and call handlers, raising fears more patients could die while waiting for help.

Callers are likely to face longer waits for 999 and 111 calls to be answered and there will be far fewer ambulances on the road.

The NHS has drafted doctors into control rooms to help identify the most needy patients as bosses are forced to ration ambulances.

Some callers will be told to make their own way to hospital, potentially using a bus or taxi.

And Britons will face a postcode lottery of emergency care as unions have refused to commit to a national level of service, with deals done locally instead. 

Miriam Deakin, interim deputy CEO of NHS Providers, said her members were worried because Unison was also telling call handlers and ambulance dispatchers, who remained in work during the December strike, to walk out.

Unison has balloted 15,000 of its members who are striking in London, Yorkshire, the North West, North East and South West. 

Up to 10,000 ambulance workers who are members of the GMB are expected to strike in areas including the South West, South East coast, North West, North East, East Midlands, West Midlands, Yorkshire and Wales.

Members who are striking will stagger their walkouts, which each striker not working for between six and 12 hours, to allow trusts to maintain a critical level of cover. 

Ambulances will respond to category one incidents, which include where a patient is not breathing or their heart has stopped, but may not travel to patients having heart attacks, strokes, burns or falls. 

Troops have been called in to drive some ambulances, similar to last month’s industrial action.  

Daniel Elkeles, chief executive of London Ambulance Service, said he expected only half of the capital’s ambulances will be available. 

He added: ‘It is still really, really busy in the NHS and hospitals are really, really full so I would just ask the public to be really helpful again tomorrow and only phone us if they have a life and limb-threatening emergency.’

Ben Holdaway, director of operations at the East Midlands Ambulance Service, said: ‘Where possible, our 999 control rooms will carefully assess and prioritise an ambulance response for those who need it most, and this may only be where there is a threat to life.’

Yorkshire Ambulance Service said crews will still be able to respond during the strike, ‘but this will only be where there is an immediate risk to life.’

In the North West, ambulance bosses urged the public to ensure ambulances are available for life-threatening cases, with other patients likely to be asked to ‘take alternative transport, such as a taxi or get a lift from family or friends’. 

Mr Shapps accused ambulance unions of behaving in a way that was not acceptable in a ‘civilised society’.

He said: ‘I don’t think any civilised society should have a situation where we can’t get agreement to, for example, have an ambulance turn up on a strike day for the most serious of all types of ailments.’

In other health news… 

Phil Tuftnell! Cricket legend ‘Tuffers’ gets hair transplant to turf over his ‘thinning wicket’  

Once frostbitten, twice shy! How Harry got a bespoke penis cushion to stop him suffering repeat injury during trip to Antarctica  

Twerking classes, ’75-soft’ and brutal 12-3-30 workouts: Top fitness trends set to dominate 2023, according to exercise experts  

Is YOUR ambulance service on strike? 

Unison has balloted 15,000 of its members who are striking in London, Yorkshire, the North West, North East and South West. 

Up to 10,000 ambulance workers who are members of the GMB are expected to strike in areas including the South West, South East coast, North West, North East, East Midlands, West Midlands, Yorkshire and Wales.

Source: Unison and GMB

Source: Read Full Article