THOUSANDS of ambulance workers will go on strike just days before Christmas in a bitter pay row — raising fears that lives will be put at risk.
Some 25,000 paramedics and emergency staff from all except two ambulance services in England are set to walk out on December 21.Thousands of ambulance workers will strike days before Christmas[/caption]
They will start from a minute past midnight in some areas — immediately after the second of two nurses’ strikes, which could involve 100,000 staff.
Hospital bosses warn patient suffering will be “inevitable” when 999 delays — already at record highs — get worse.
The latest action is jointly organised by the Unison, Unite and GMB unions.
Staff at four GMB locations will also strike again on December 28.
The first strikes will affect non-life threatening calls only.
Emergency calls will still be attended — but waits will be longer.
Services will be cut back for incidents such as pain relief or non-urgent transport to hospital — around 3,700 jobs per day.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the walkout was “disappointing”.
He added: ‘Our priority is to ensure emergency services continue to operate for those who need it.
“People should continue to use NHS 111 online for urgent healthcare advice and call 999 if it is a life-threatening emergency.”
The PM’s official spokesman said: “Our focus now is on mitigating any potential detrimental impact these strikes could have.”
Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison, said: “The Government will only have itself to blame if there are strikes in the NHS before Christmas.
“Ambulance staff don’t want to inconvenience anyone but ministers are refusing to do the one thing that could prevent disruption — start genuine talks about pay.”
Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, added: “Patients’ lives are already at risk but this government is sitting on the sidelines.
“Fail to act now to avert these strikes and the blame will rest firmly at the Government’s door.”
HHS figures show crews are already so busy that one in seven ambulances wait an hour or more to offload their patient to A&E.
A third are delayed by at least half an hour, despite the NHS’ 15-minute turnaround rule.
It means average waits for heart attack and stroke patients are longer than ever, at over an hour, and one in four jobs had to be turned down in October.
‘IMPACT ON PATIENTS’
Saffron Cordery, chief of NHS Providers, said: “The potential for escalated action and prolonged, joint strikes by health unions in January is very worrying.
“The challenges strike action presents for the health service at a time when it is under serious strain across every part of the system is undeniable. This will inevitably have an impact on patients.”
Matthew Taylor, chief of NHS Confederation, said unions must balance the “impact” of the strikes with keeping life-saving care running.
He said: “If there is any risk of not being able to provide emergency services it is likely the Army would have to be mobilised.”
Unions want inflation-busting pay rises, not the five per cent offered by ministers in the summer.
The Welsh Ambulance Service will also go on strike on December 21 and 28.
Around 1,800 members of the Fire Brigades Union rallied outside Parliament.
The union is balloting whether to take industrial action after rejecting ministers’ five per cent pay offer.
Christmas travellers face a fifth of their holiday flights being axed as Border Force staff prepare to strike over pay.
The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union will announce their strike dates for their 15,000 Border Force, passport and visa staff over Christmas today.
The deputy leader said the RMT boss, dubbed Mick Grinch for wrecking Christmas with walkouts, was an “incredibly reasonable man” not an “evil villain”.
She spoke as stats revealed Labour pocketed £3million in donations this year from unions who have called strikes or threatened them.
Some £1.1million is from Unite and thousands came from Unison, Aslef, GMB and the CWU.