Troop support will have ‘marginal’ impact on mass strikes in NHS

Health secretary on impact of ambulance strikes amid pay dispute

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The Government has said that approximately 750 military personnel will be drafted in to support services being hit by strikes, notably the NHS, which will see troops drive ambulances. Following a request from the Department of Health and Social Care for military support, the selected personnel will begin a five-day training programme to drive the vehicles this week.

Volunteers, civil servants, and military members are already being trained up to takeover services including Border Force at ports and airports.

Despite the aid of the military, the NHS has warned that their help will only have a “marginal” impact and there will still be “serious disruption” which will cause risk to patients.

On Monday, Cabinet Minister Oliver Dowden will head the first of two Cobra emergency meetings to address the strikes and to discuss emergency plans.

As the nation battles the rising cost of living crisis and a recession, trade unions are launching strike action to get pay increases in line with inflation and to improve working conditions.

As part of the upcoming strikes, tens of thousands of workers are set to take to the picket lines.

Thousands of ambulance workers are due to walk out on December 21 in the first wave of strikes from medical staff across England and Wales.

Nurses will also be going on strike on Thursday following the dismissal of talks over pay by ministers.

Mr Dowden said: “The stance the unions have taken will cause disruption for millions of hardworking people over the coming weeks.

“The Government will do all it can to mitigate the impact, but the only way to stop the disruption completely is for union bosses to get back round the table and call off these damaging strikes.

“Of course we want to ensure that people are paid fairly, but what isn’t fair for union bosses to put people’s livelihoods at risk in order to push their pay demands to the front of the queue.”

The Government said: “Many unions are asking for uplifts in line with inflation or even more.

“The Government recognises these are very challenging economic times.

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“That’s why it is focused on getting inflation under control as the best way to help everyone’s money go further and avoid soaring inflation rates being embedded in the UK economy.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak responded to demands from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) to increase pay at five percent about RPI inflation which is currently 14 percent as “obviously unaffordable”.

The deputy chairwoman of the BMA council, Emma Runswick, warned that it is “very likely” that junior doctors will also join the strike action due to pay issues.

Speaking to Sky News, Ms Runswick said: “I do think more people will die and that is not something we want, and there are some solutions to that but currently the Government won’t even speak to us.”

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