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Welsh Ambulance Trust

More ambulance strikes threatened on eve of Unison walkout

Trade Union Unison has threatened further walkouts by its Welsh Ambulance Service members on the eve of its planned industrial action tomorrow.

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The union’s ambulance Organising Professional Committee (OPC) is meeting later today (18 January) to set new dates which could see strike action throughout February and March.

Unite ambulance members are already set to strike in Wales tomorrow (19 January) and on Monday (23 January). 

GMB union members at the Welsh Ambulance Service have already staged one walkout on Wednesday 11 January.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “Unite stands 100 percent behind our Welsh Ambulance members who are striking to save our NHS. These workers are on the NHS frontline every day, saving lives and doing everything they can to protect the public.

“Unfortunately the NHS staffing crisis is making their job increasingly difficult, they see first-hand how our NHS is collapsing. A decent consolidated pay increase is the only way to improve NHS recruitment and relieve the crippling pressure on our ambulance services. The recent proposal from Welsh Government of a one off payment simply does not cut it with our members.

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“Although the roots of this dispute may lie in Westminster, the only way of stopping further strikes is for Welsh Government to put a cost of living salary increase on the table”.

Ms Graham added: “The government has gone from clapping NHS workers during the pandemic, to ignoring them, insulting them, and now threatening them with the sack if they fight for decent pay. Ministers are paying the price for this in the growing anger among NHS workers and, as a result, growing support for strike action.

“A responsible government would get around the table for real talks with the unions and get the current crisis sorted with a wage deal that matches workers’ expectations. Their continued failure to do so will only result in more and more strikes.”

Unite Wales regional officer Richard Munn said: “Ambulance workers across Wales have had enough. They are not willing to sit back and see the vital lifesaving service that they provide continue to be driven into the ground.

“The stress on our members builds every day. Another below inflation pay rise is the final straw. Devaluing pay every year whilst the ambulance service staff are faced with more and more pressure has resulted in the current strike action. This strike is overwhelmingly the will of our members and we need the Welsh and UK Governments to take this incredibly seriously.

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“We accept that Welsh Government have a desire to resolve this dispute but their current proposals are clearly not enough to end this dispute”.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said: “The pressures on NHS staff is huge and I appreciate the dispute is not an easy one to solve, but we need the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay to start negotiating seriously rather than blaming UK ministers for failing in its own responsibilities – something unions have echoed.

“The latest statistics show Wales recording its slowest-ever ambulance response times and Britain’s worst A&E waits and longest waiting list – I am certain this will not meaningfully change any time soon under Labour’s current approach.

“Patients cannot be allowed to suffer with our public services at a standstill and staff cannot be expected to burnout because Labour ministers cannot get their act together.”

A spokesperson from Welsh Ambulance Service said: “We respect the decision of Trade Union members to strike and are working closely with colleagues to ensure that the impact on our patients is kept to a minimum and that we can continue to provide a safe service to the most acutely unwell patients across Wales.

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“On days where there is strike action, patients should call 999 only for very serious or life-threatening emergencies where there is a risk to life and an ambulance is the only appropriate choice.

“By its nature, strike action means that fewer ambulance crews will be available. We will still respond to emergency calls, but this may only be where there is an immediate risk to life.

“On strike days, there may be fewer clinicians available to triage patients as many of our NHS 111 Wales clinicians may be members of unions who are taking industrial action. This means that you may wait longer to be assessed and to receive a call back.

“If your call is not urgent, please go to the NHS 111 Wales website for help and advice.

“There, you’ll find symptom checkers and a host of health information, as well as information on the current advice on Strep A, including when to seek medical help.

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“Due to planned industrial action on 19 and 23 January, patients are advised to make alternative arrangements for transport to attend their non-urgent appointments. If patients cannot make their own arrangements to attend their appointment, our advice is to contact their healthcare provider to rearrange their appointment if required.

“Derogated services are still in discussion for January 23, therefore the recommendation above currently applies to all patients.

“On 19 January, derogated services include, all renal dialysis patients, all oncology and related cancer care patients and end of life humanitarian journey (death imminent).

“Please only call 999 in a very serious or life-threatening emergency to keep our precious resources for those who need us most.

“If you’re ill or injured, consider alternatives to 999 like your GP, pharmacist, NHS 111 Wales online or Minor Injuries Unit, and stock up on prescription medications and over the counter remedies to reduce the risk of you falling ill on strike days. Please also take extra care during the cold spell to avoid slips, trips and falls, and accidents on the road.

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“We know this is a very disruptive time for everyone and we thank you all for your help and support as we work hard to maintain services for those most in need of our life-saving care.”

(Lead image: Welsh Ambulance Service Trust)

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