December 21, 2022 8.30 am This story is over 16 months old

Ambulance strike: 2,000 EMAS workers walk out over pay

The first days of strikes for ambulance crews

An anticipated 2,000 East Midlands Ambulance Service workers have walked out today, demanding better pay and conditions.

The strikes have been called by members of the GMB Union, with more than 10,000 ambulance workers voting for the action.

In Lincolnshire, United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust has declared a critical incident amid ongoing pressures, and in anticipation of the strikes.

Action is expected over the next two weeks, with crews unable to reach some people who call 999.

At EMAS, industrial action is planned to take place from 6am Wednesday, December 21 to 6am Thursday, December 22; and 6am Wednesday, December 28 to 6am on Thursday, December 29.

Ben Holdaway, Director of Operations at EMAS, said: “During the period of the dispute, we will do all we can to minimise the impact on patient safety and will continue to work very closely with trade union colleagues, regional service providers and NHS Employers.

“Our operational teams have developed contingency plans to aim to maximise the number of ambulance staff and volunteers we have available to respond to patients, as well as clinical staff able to carry out remote clinical assessments.

“However, we anticipate that on days where there is industrial action that there will still be fewer ambulances available and therefore our responses to our patients will, inevitably, be much slower on the day.

“Therefore our 999 control rooms, where possible, will carefully assess and prioritise an ambulance response for those who need it most, and this may only be where there is a threat to life.

“Patients should continue to call for an ambulance as normal if they experience a life-threatening emergency and should continue to access other more appropriate services for any other illnesses or injuries such as NHS111 online or contacting their local Urgent Treatment Centre.

“We fully respect the right of NHS staff to take lawful and peaceful industrial action, however we do urge national employer representatives and trade union colleagues to proactively engage and reach a negotiated settlement to the dispute as quickly as possible.”

The GMB union claims that the government’s imposed 4% pay award for staff translates to a real terms pay cut in line with inflation and considering the current rising cost of living.

Rachel Harrison, GMB National Secretary, said: “Ambulance workers – like other NHS workers – are on their knees.

“Demoralised and downtrodden, they’ve faced twelve years of Conservative cuts to the service and their pay packets, fought on the frontline of a global pandemic and now face the worst cost of living crisis in a generation.

“No one in the NHS takes strike action lightly – today shows just how desperate they are.

“This is as much about unsafe staffing levels and patient safety as it is about pay. A third of GMB ambulance workers think delays they’ve been involved with have led to the death of a patient.

“Something has to change or the service as we know it will collapse. GMB calls on the government to avoid a winter of NHS strikes by negotiating a pay award that these workers deserve.”