The health secretary Steve Barclayhas said there will be a shortage of ambulances in England and Wales when workers go on strike this month because the government’s contingency plans will not be able to cover all emergency responses.
The unions have said they will deal with life-threatening incidents, known as category one emergency responses, including during their biggest strike in 30 years, on December 21 and 28.
But it’s not yet clear whether they will respond to category two emergency calls from people who have had heart attacks, strokes, epileptic seizures or burns.
Barclay will meet with the unions to discuss whether they will be able to respond to such calls, saying they will not respond to category three emergency calls, including falls, for the time being.
Barclay said it was important that category three and four calls were still covered because it could put “great pressure” on the National Health Service.
But admitting that the government’s contingency plans were not foolproof, he said: “Of course, we can see what contingency plans we can put in place, but they will never cover the same amount as having 3,000 ambulances in the day, which is about what we have in a typical day. There is a risk… we cannot bring ambulances to people.”
Barclay said he was “open to discussions with unions” later adding: “It’s not just about pay, there are a lot of issues affecting staff, NHS quality, technology, staff and staffing levels.”
the GMB, Unison and Unite unions are coordinating industrial action in England and Wales after accusing the government of ignoring calls for a decent wage increase.
The strike will occur one day after members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) organize their second day of strikeAlso about payment.
Shadow leveling secretary Lisa Nandy said it was not enough for Barclay to say his “door is always open” for talks with unions as he “seems to have no agency himself.”
She told Sky News: “If [Labour] If we were in government we would be moving heaven and earth to prevent these strikes. What do you think your current job is? Not a second has passed in negotiations since it started. You have ambulance workers saying we don’t want to be on strike, these strikes can be avoided if you really did your job. The problem is not the militant workers, it is a militant government”.
The GMB said more than 10,000 ambulance workers in nine trusts in England and Welsh would attack, including South West, South East Coast, North West, South Central, North East, East Midlands, West Midlands, Welsh and Yorkshire ambulance services.
Conservative Party Chairman Nadhim Zahawi came under fire this week for saying nurses should call off their strikes and drop their wage demands because ran the risk of playing the game of the Russian presidentwho said he wanted to boost inflation in the west.
Pat Cullen, RCN general secretary, said it was a “new low” for the government “to use Russia’s war in the Ukraine as justification for a pay cut in real terms for nurses in the UK”.
Unite said more than 1,600 of its members in the West Midlands, North West and North East ambulance services would join the strike.