‘Delays have led to deaths’ - Liverpool ambulance workers to strike over pay and staffing levels

A third of GMB union ambulance workers think delays they’ve been involved with have led to the death of a patient.

Ambulance workers in Liverpool are set to join their colleagues across England in a strike likely to happen before Christmas, unions have warned. Both Unison and the GMB held ballots over whether to strike over NHS pay and staffing levels.

Staff at North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust, Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are expected to join any action.

Although exact strike dates for ambulance workers are yet to be decided, they could join thousands of health workers across England.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) announced locations this week, including the Liverpool City Region, where members would be striking over pay and staffing on December 15 and 20.

Unison said that more than 80,000 health workers across England have voted to go on strike and although ​the vote was just below the 50% threshold in many ​trusts, ​Unison warned Government ministers should be in no doubt about the level of anger and frustration from NHS workers.

The GMB said more than 10,000 ambulance workers have voted to strike in nine trusts across England and Wales.

Why have ambulance workers voted to strike?

In July, the Government announced that most NHS staff on Agenda for Change contracts in England would get a pay rise of £1,400, in line with the recommendation of the NHS pay review body.

Despite the pay award, unions view members as being worse off in real terms due to successive below inflation awards over the past decade.

North West Ambulance Service responded to 9693 life threatening incidents in October. The average wait was nine minutes 19 seconds - two minutes 19 seconds longer than target.

Commenting on the ballot results, Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The decision to ​take action and lose a day’s pay is always a tough call. It’s especially challenging for those whose jobs involve caring and saving lives.

“But thousands of ambulance staff and their NHS colleagues know delays won’t lessen, nor waiting times reduce, until the government acts on wages. That’s why they’ve taken the difficult decision to strike.

“Patients will always come first and emergency cover will be available during any strike. But unless NHS pay and staffing get fixed, services and care will continue to decline.”

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

“Demoralised and downtrodden, they’ve faced twelve years 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.”

Health secretary Steve Barclay has already deemed RCN calls for pay increases as unaffordable and said the NHS has ‘tried and tested plans in place to minimise disruption and ensure emergency services’.