Ambulance Workers Set To Announce Up To Six More Strikes Dates As Dispute Escalates

The threat comes after talks with the government broke down this week without agreement.
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Ambulance workers in the NHS are poised to announce up to six more strike dates as the dispute with the government heats up.

The GMB trade union is due to meet ambulance representatives on Monday, when it is thought a raft of new strikes could be announced.

A GMB source said: “The GMB is meeting ambulance reps on Monday and is likely to announce a load more strike dates, possibly up to six.”

Another ambulance staff strike is already due to be held on January 23, following a walkout on Wednesday of 25,000 workers.

Asked if the government had a message for the GMB, the prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “We would call on them to step back from strike action and continue some of the discussions which have in recent days been constructive.”

It comes as new figures showed that ambulance response times and A&E waits are now the worst on record.

The average response time in December for category one calls — defined as life-threatening illness or injuries such as cardiac or respiratory arrest — was 10 minutes and 57 seconds.

It is set against a target of seven minutes and marks the worst performance on record.

For category two calls, which can include heart attacks and strokes, average response times reached an hour and a half — more than 50% higher than the previous record high.

The figures for NHS England also show that a record 54,532 people waited more than 12 hours waiting to be admitted to A&E after being referred.

Meanwhile, the proportion of patients seen within the target timeframe of four hours fell to a record low of 65% in December.

The figures lay bare the acute pressures the NHS is facing this winter, as the health service deals with a surge in flu cases and a near record number of 111 calls.

Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive at NHS Providers, said in response to the findings: “Trusts are now busier than ever as A&E attendances and delayed discharges reach record highs.

“With pressure bearing down on the NHS from almost every direction, trust leaders are contending with exceptional seasonal challenges amid ongoing strike action that has no sign of a resolution.

“This is compounded by bed occupancy not only remaining above safe levels but being the highest on record: more than 14,000 patients a day remain in hospital when they are medically fit to leave, which shows that social care desperately needs more investment to increase capacity.

“It’s vital the £250m funding announced earlier this week by the government to free up beds and ease pressure on the NHS reaches the frontline without delay.

“The government needs to talk to union bosses about pay to avoid more strikes and publish a fully funded and costed workforce plan to address the huge staff shortages.

“We also advise everyone offered a Covid-19 booster or flu vaccine to get jabbed to combat the risk of serious illness and to help to ease pressure on health services.”

Wes Streeting, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said the NHS was currently enduring “the biggest crisis in its history”.

“The terrifying truth is that patients in an emergency can no longer be sure the NHS will be there for them.

“Heart attack and stroke victims are routinely waiting over three hours for an ambulance, when every second counts. 24 hours in A&E is not just a TV programme, it is the grim reality for too many patients. Too many lives are being lost as a result.”

Lib Dem health spokesperson and deputy leader Daisy Cooper added: “Thousands of excess deaths, millions on waiting lists and hours until an ambulance arrives, this is a horror show of the government’s creation. People will be petrified when they or their loved ones fall ill.

“Our NHS isn’t just at breaking point — it’s splitting at its very seams. Liberal Democrats are demanding the government release the money they promised to help discharge patients from hospitals, in the next seven days.”


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