Striking 999 crews WON’T respond to victims of strokes
HEALTH unions have been invited to pay talks after paramedics vowed to escalate strikes by refusing to respond to some heart attack and stroke victims.
In a major breakthrough, Steve Barclay agreed to meet representatives of the ambulance workers and physiotherapists if they call off planned industrial action.
Unison, Unite, GMB and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy are now considering the Health Secretary’s offer, with a decision expected later today.
They are first seeking confirmation that he is willing and able to agree a backdated pay deal for 2022/23 and a rise for 2023/24. They also want assurances that they will be offered the same deal as nurses, after the Royal College of Nursing halted strikes and accepted an invitation to unilateral talks last week.
Ambulance staff, physiotherapists, nurses and midwives are on the same NHS Agenda for Change contract and their unions historically negotiate together through the NHS Staff Council.
But the Government sparked fury and was accused of playing ‘divide and rule’ by inviting the RCN for separate ‘intensive’ discussions after the union threatened to take a harder line and remove care from A&E and cancer wards. It prompted the GMB to ramp up strikes planned for next Monday and Wednesday, when up to 13,000 of its ambulance workers are expected to walk out. If they go ahead, many will now only respond to immediately lifethreatening ‘category one’ calls, where a person’s heart has stopped or they are not breathing. It means ‘category two’ callers, such as those suffering heart attacks, strokes and severe burns, will be told to make their own way to hospital. In previous strikes, ambulance staff have agreed to respond to many category two calls.
Rachel Harrison, GMB national secretary, said: ‘GMB members working for ambulance trusts are understandably upset.
‘They worked round the clock to provide a better service for emergencies than on non-strike days. Now they see other emergency workers threatening to strike with no derogations [exemptions] – and those workers are either instantly offered a deal, or are immediately involved in intensive talks.’
A health department spokesman said: ‘We are happy to talk to all unions who are willing to discuss what is fair and reasonable.
‘Any deal needs to strike a balance between giving NHS staff a fair deal and delivering on our promise to halve inflation this year. In order for talks to start, all planned strike action must be called off with immediate effect.’
Meanwhile, junior doctors, who are on a different contract, described their talks with Mr Barclay yesterday as a ‘ facade’ and said they will plough on with a three-day walkout in less than a fortnight.
Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi, co-chairmen of the British Medical Association’s junior doctors’ committee, called the Health Secretary a ‘ professional delayer’, claiming he held talks without a mandate to negotiate. The BMA is demanding a pay rise of 35 per cent for junior doctors.
The health department said: ‘[Mr Barclay] reiterated the Government is happy to continue discussing what is fair and affordable.’
‘Discuss what is fair and reasonable’