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What ambulance strike means for calls, response times and staffing

Ambulance services across England are set to go on strike before Christmas as thousands of paramedics and call handlers voted for action.

The announcement by union Unison comes as the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) confirmed 100,000 nurses across England, Wales and Northern Ireland will walk out on 15 and 20 December.

The union is calling for action on pay and a big increase in staff numbers, warning that unless these things happen, services will continue to decline.

Saffron Cordery, interim chief of NHS Providers, said on BBC radio four: “I think in terms of the ambulance strike, we know the challenges already of not having enough paramedics, call handlers available, because we’ve seen the challenges to ambulance handover times that we have at the moment in terms of not being able to transfer patients from ambulances into A&E departments and the challenges that brings when they can’t get back out on the road.

“Additional challenges on top of that, I think, will make response times incredibly stretched.”

Sources told The Independent that one option could be for services to maintain levels of staff to be able to respond to the most serious calls - category one and two calls - and deprioritise the less serious category three and four calls.

This has previously been negotiated during smaller-scale strikes.

However, senior sources suggested that on a larger scale it would be hard to not respond to category three calls, which might include an older person who has fallen.

It is also unclear how 999 call centres would operate during strikes as this work would likely count as life-saving emergency care, The Independent understands.

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Source: The Independent, 2 December 2022


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