Up to 25,000 ambulance workers across England and Wales went on strike on Wednesday in a dispute with the Government for a second time over pay.
Paramedics, call handlers, drivers and technicians from the Unison and GMB unions took part in staggered strikes across a 24-hour period. It comes as 14 health unions, representing more than a million NHS staff, said they will not submit evidence to the NHS pay review body for the next wage round “while the current industrial disputes remain unresolved.”
NHS Providers warned the NHS would be hit harder by yesterday’s strike than one held in December as more staff, including call handlers, went on strike. This comes as statistics revealed there were 1,600 more deaths than usual during Christmas week as long waits for ambulances, cold weather and flu infections increased mortality rates by a fifth.
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said the ambulance strike “is an unwelcome return to unnecessary disruption and comes at a time when the NHS is already under huge pressure from COVID and flu.”
He criticised the unions for failing to agree on minimum service levels during the strike on a national level after they said there were agreements made on local levels – the day after the government introduced a bill to ensure unions must have minimum safety levels during key worker strikes.
Monday’s crunch talks between unions and the government were branded “bitterly disappointing” and an “insult”.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Unite condemned the meeting with the Health Secretary, stating ministers refuse to change their views on the dispute.
Unite said any suggestion that a one-off pay reward could be made in exchange for a boost in productivity was “absolutely ludicrous.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had earlier not denied suggestions the government was considering a one-off payment to help NHS staff deal with the soaring cost of living, but said any pay settlement would have to be affordable and not further increase inflation.
After the meeting, the GMB said that ambulance strikes would go ahead as planned, adding that the talks “fell well short” of anything needed to stop the walk-out.
Further action is in the pipeline with nurses planning to strike next Wednesday and Thursday, while another ambulance strike is set to take place on 23 January.