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NHS ambulance strikes will put patients at risk – but delays already at record high

Nine ambulance trusts in England and Wales are expected to be affected by industrial action on Wednesday, coordinated by the GMB, Unison and Unite unions.

The ambulance strikes will involve paramedics as well as control-room staff and support workers. The threat to patient safety on Wednesday will be exceptional.

Under trade union laws, life-preserving care must be provided during the strikes. But there remains a lack of clarity about what will be offered. Even at this late stage, NHS leaders say negotiations are continuing between unions and ambulance services to agree which incidents will be exempt from strike action.

All category 1 calls – the most life-threatening cases – will be responded to, while some ambulance trusts have agreed exemptions with unions for specific incidents within category 2 calls.

However, in some cases, elderly people who fall during the strikes may not be sent help until they have spent several hours on the floor. Heart attack and stroke patients may get an ambulance only if treatment is deemed “time critical”.

There is no doubt that many of those patients making 999 calls on Wednesday will not get the care they need. Some will probably die as a result.

NHS leaders believe Wednesday’s strike will present a completely different magnitude of risk. Quite simply, patients not getting emergency treatment quickly enough can mean the difference between life and death.

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Source: The Guardian, 19 December 2022


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