Unions must ensure there will be “sufficient” staffing during this week’s ambulance strike to protect patients, the health secretary says.
Workers in England and Wales will walk out on Wednesday in a dispute over pay, but life-threatening emergencies will be responded to. Unions say discussions were still taking place with ambulance trusts to draw up detailed plans for cover.
Steve Barclay said there is a lack of clarity about what is being offered. He said it was for the unions to ensure they “meet their obligations” for emergency cover so that people in crisis get the care they need.
But Unite leader Sharon Graham, whose union is co-ordinating the ambulance strikes with Unison and GMB, said Mr Barclay will “have to carry the can if patients suffer”.
“It’s Steve Barclay who is holding the country to ransom,” she told the Daily Mirror. Unions say the government has the power to stop the ambulance strike – and action by nurses on Tuesday – if it signalled a willingness to discuss pay.
The ambulance walkouts will involve paramedics as well as control room staff and support workers.
The action by the three main ambulance unions – Unison, GMB and Unite – will affect non-life threatening calls, meaning those who suffer trips, falls or other injuries may not receive treatment.
Members of GMB are set to follow up the action with another walkout on 28 December.
The government’s emergency Cobra committee will meet this morning to discuss how to lessen the impact of the ambulance strike. Ministers have already announced members of the military will be on standby to help out.