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Ambulance strike cover insufficient, says health secretary

The health secretary said "voluntary arrangements" for emergency cover during recent ambulance strikes could not "ensure patient and public safety".

In a letter to the GMB, Steve Barclay acknowledged unions that walked out had agreed to answer the most serious category one 999 calls.

But he said the lack of cover for category two calls, including strokes, in some areas put lives at risk.

The GMB has accused the government of "demonising" its striking workers.

In response, Mr Barclay wrote on Sunday that he recognised the right to strike and accepted "that a certain amount of disruption is inherent to any strike".

He said he "greatly" valued the "vital work ambulance workers do" but criticised the "volatile" assurances given to him about cover by trade unions during December's industrial action.

The government's anti-strike bill is due to be considered by MPs again on Monday.

The legislation would set minimum service levels for fire, ambulance and rail services during industrial action and could leave unions at risk of legal action if they fail to comply.

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Source: BBC News, 15 January 2023


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