Ambulance workers across a number of unions are walking out today over pay and conditions, as health secretary Steve Barclay condemned the strike as “inflicting harm on patients”.
The emergency workers in the Unison, Unite and GMB unions will down tools across the country, with the government calling in the Army to ensure the country doesn’t descend into complete chaos.
Steve Barclay, the health secretary, wrote in the Telegraph today saying the strikes involving tens of thousands of ambulance workers would “inflict harm on patients”.
Those needing medical care have been urged not to seek it unless it is a very serious emergency such as a cardiac arrest.
Barclay wrote: ““We now know that the NHS contingency plans will not cover all 999 calls. Ambulance unions have made a conscious choice to inflict harm on patients.”
This comes during a December of strikes with walk-outs every day in industries including rail, Royal Mail, nursing and at airports.
Many workers are downing tools in protest of below-inflation pay offers, amid the cost of living crisis and soaring energy bills this winter.
The national secretary of the GMB Union, Rachel Harrison, responded to his comments saying: “It’s actually quite insulting to our members and our NHS workers who get up, go to work every day and put patient safety first. They’re the ones feeling physically prevented on a day-to-day basis from being able to do their jobs.”
While saying her members had “not taken the decision lightly”, she added, “We’ve been raising these issues for years and [have] been ignored”.
Christina McAnea from Unison told Talk TV it was “absolutely the government’s” fault that strikes were taking place, because they refuse to budge on pay.
The NHS Confederation wrote to the prime minister saying there was “deep worry among NHS leaders about the level of harm and risk that could occur to patients”.
“This is not something NHS leaders would ever say lightly,” the letter stated, “but many now tell us that they cannot guarantee patient safety”.
More to follow