More ambulance strikes announced on two dates in January

Ambulance worker explains why he's gone on strike

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Ambulance workers will strike for two more days in January, Unison leaders have announced, pointing to the government’s refusal to pay as the direct cause. The industrial action will be held on January 11 and 23 across five areas in England, and will likely worsen the strain on an already thinly stretched health service. 

Union bosses clarified that life-threatening calls to 999, as well as the most serious emergency calls, will still be responded to.

Services in London, Yorkshire, the North West, North East and South West will take action over pay and staffing.

Paramedics and ambulance crews took part in the first national strikes for more than 30 years on Wednesday, with 10 of 11 trusts in England and Wales affected.

Today’s announcement follows a fierce back and forth between ministers and unions over responsibility for the striking workers. 

Unite boss Sharon Graham yesterday accused Health Secretary Steve Barclay of telling “a blatant lie” for claiming ambulance unions had “taken a conscious choice to inflict harm on patients”.

Mr Barclay placed the blame on the unions for striking at a time when the NHS was under significant pressure – but they claimed instead that he was at fault for refusing to negotiate a pay deal which could help bring more workers into the service and improve wait times.

Unions representing ambulance workers are demanding pay increases to keep up with the rising cost of living, pointing out that as a result of inflation, many employees are currently taking an effective pay cut for their essential and demanding work. While they have not set a specific figure, unions argue any offer needs to be high enough to prevent a recruitment crisis.

The health secretary later told BBC Breakfast ambulance unions had chosen to strike at a time “when the system is already facing very significant pressure”, as a result of increased flu and Covid admissions.

But union bosses argued that the significant wait times for NHS services already puts patients at risk, and are the result of staff shortages due to poor working conditions and insufficient pay. 

Unison said it was “utterly shocked” by Mr Barclay’s comments in the Telegraph, while the GMB union branded them “insulting”.

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