EVERYTHING you need to know about today's NHS 999 crew strike

How many ambulance workers are striking? And will my area be affected? EVERYTHING you need to know about today’s NHS 999 strike

  • Some 25,000 ambulance workers have commenced their second strike action 
  • The walkouts, coordinated by unions GMB and Unison, will last up to 24 hours
  • Unison members will join fellow union Unite for further strikes on January 23
  • Public should still call 999 in emergency but NHS bosses warn of possible delays

NHS ambulance staff return to the picket lines today, with tensions still frayed between the Government and union bosses. 

But how many staff are taking part? Which areas of the country are affected? How will patients be impacted? And will it be worse than the December strikes? 

Here, MailOnline answers all your questions on today’s 999 walk-outs. 

Ambulance staff have returned to the the picket lines today, in the second full day of strike action over pay following December’s industrial action

Around 25,000 ambulance workers across England and Wales could strike today.  

NHS workers walking off job include paramedics, emergency care assistants as well as 111 and 999 call handlers. 

This round of industrial action is being coordinated by two NHS ambulance unions, GMB and Unison. 

GMB said up to 10,000 of its members are expected to take part, while Unison said up to 15,000 of its members could strike.

But the true number who actually walk-out will be lower.  

Will some staff be working at the striking trusts?

By law, unions representing NHS must provide a minimum number of staff to ensure ‘life and limb’ cover is maintained for public safety.

In theory, this means paramedics should still respond to the most urgent emergency calls, such as those who suffer heart failure.

The exact numbers of staff exempted from striking, and for what services, is negotiated between unions and local NHS employers. 

Ministers have criticised this arrangement as resulting in a ‘postcode lottery’ for the public, and have listed it as reason for bringing in anti-strike legislation that would require country-wide levels of minimum service for industrial action. 

Additionally, not every worker in the ambulance services are represented by the two unions, either belonging to a different one, or note being a member at all. 

Which areas will be affected?

GMB strikes will affect:

  • East Midlands Ambulance Services 
  • North East Ambulance Service 
  • North West Ambulance Service 
  • South Central Ambulance Service 
  • South East Coast Ambulance Service 
  • South West Ambulance Service
  • Welsh Ambulance Service
  • West Midlands Ambulance Services
  • Yorkshire Ambulance Service

Unison’s will be held at:

  • London Ambulance Service
  • North East Ambulance Service
  • North West Ambulance Service
  • South West Ambulance Service
  • Yorkshire Ambulance Service 

The only NHS ambulance trust in England unaffected by today’s walk-outs will be the East of England Ambulance Service. 

Up to 26,600 ambulance workers across nine NHS trusts in England and Wales go on strike today, with many walking out again on December 28 

How long will the strikes last? 

They will last for a 24 hour period, with the picket lines themselves opening from about 6am and closing at around 11pm.

Further strike dates have already been announced, with Unison, and fellow NHS ambulance union Unite, to hold more co-ordinated industrial action on January 23.

GMB have yet to announce any further strike dates but have warned more will be on the way if ministers do not agree to their demands. 

How will the strikes impact me? 

The public should still call 999 in cases of life threatening emergencies, like if a person’s heart has stopped beating or they are not breathing.

These are known as category one calls and should be responded to within seven minutes, on average, according to NHS targets.

How bad are ambulance delays at YOUR hospital? 

Nearly 70,000 patients were whizzed to hospitals by 999 crews last week. But more than 28,000 — or 40 per cent — faced delays of at least 30 minutes before being passed to casualty teams

Response times to these emergencies could be impacted by both having fewer ambulances available and with 999 call waiting times expected to be higher. 

Some ambulance bosses have said they expect to have only half the number of crewed emergency vehicles as they would normally. 

Patients for less urgent but still serious health emergencies like heart attacks or strokes could also face delays. Such calls are classified as category two, and should be responded to within 18 minutes, on average. 

In at least some areas, unions have agreed to take members off the picket line and back to work if demand for life and limb saving care becomes too high.

Patients in category three – typically including falls – and category four could be told to make their own way to hospital or seek care elsewhere as ambulances are rationed for the most critical emergencies. 

Ambulance bosses have also urged the public not to repeatedly call 999 to ask where an ambulance is, or when it will arrive, and only call back if a patient’s condition has changed. 

The NHS’s non-urgent phone service 111 is also expected to be hit by increased demand as well as having fewer staff today.

Patient transport services are also expected to be affected though any patients who use this service should have been told of any cancellation.

Will this make the NHS’s A&E crisis worse?

The current crisis in the NHS has been fuelled by a multitude of factors, including record levels of bed-blockers, sky-high rates of flu and a resurgence of Covid. 

It has led to inhumane scenes in emergency departments with patients reported staying for days in A&E, sleeping in chairs or on the floor, before being admitted and taken to a bed.

The impact of today’s ambulance strikes is unknown. 

It could lead to more people making their own way to A&E themselves, rather than risk a wait for an ambulance. 

During the last strike on December 21, there was a huge reduction in 999 calls, with levels dropping by a third in some parts of England.

Is the Government and NHS taking any action to mitigate the impact of the strike?

Some ambulance trusts have contracted private staff to cover some parts of their service.

Military personnel have also been called in to drive some ambulances, though they must still obey the rules of the road, not being allowed to run red lights for example.

The Government is also attempting to push through an anti-strike law that would force unions to provide a minimum level of service during industrial action.

Military personnel are being drafted in to provide support for ambulance calls during the strike, but will not drive ambulances on blue lights for the most serious calls 

Revealed, six-figure salaries of hard-Left union barons behind ambulance strikes: One is a former Communist, another was kicked out of Labour and a third says she’s ‘open to working at the edges of the law’ 

Gary Smith, GMB General Secretary: The Edinburgh-born trade unionist was rewarded for a lifetime of service to GMB with a £135,000 package when he was elected General Secretary last year. He is pictured on the picket line in Bishop Auckland, County Durham

Why are staff striking in the first place?

The dispute is about pay and staffing in the ambulance service, two issues which unions argue are related.  

They claim pay failing to keep pace with inflation is forcing workers to leave the NHS, exacerbating staffing pressures. There are currently just over 3,300 vacancies in ambulances services in England, according to the latest data. 

In November, unions voted to strike over the Government’s 4 per cent pay award for NHS staff last year. 

GMB says it wants a ‘catch-up settlement’ for its members to restore ‘a decade of lost earnings and a retention package that properly rewards existing staff’. 

Meanwhile, Unison says it wants an above-inflation pay rise, which currently sits at about 9 per cent. 

What do ambulance workers actually earn?

The Government says that, after receiving a pay rise of at least 4 per cent, most ambulance staff have their average basic pay to £34,300. 

Unions, however, say the basic salary for a call handler is no more than £23,000.

The Government’s own website says the starting wage for a paramedic is £25,655. 

More experienced medics earn more, however, as is the case for most medical fields. 

Is the Government negotiating with the unions?

Discussions have been held between the Health Secretary Steve Barclay and NHS unions, as recently as Monday.

But he has not entered formal negotiations, despite multiple pleas, even from among his fellow Tory MPs. 

Instead Mr Barclay has, so far, insisted the Government must follow the 4 per cent recommendation of the independent NHS Pay Review Body and that pay for this year is not up for negotiation. 

Unions have questioned the independence of the pay body because it is appointed by Government, and also argue the recommendation was made before inflation soared.

But in a shift on Monday, Mr Barclay agreed to examine union proposals that would see the 2023/24 pay settlement due in April back-dated to this month, effectively granting them an early pay boost.

However, this was not enough to avert today’s planned strike action.  

Health Secretary Steve Barclay today agreed to examine union proposals that would see a health service pay rise brought forward by three months in a bid to end the wave of strikes hitting the NHS

How is today’s strike different than December 21’s?

Today’s action only includes two unions, GMB and Unison.

December’s was coordinated between three unions, with Unite joining the action. 

It involved up to 26,600 ambulance workers, between the three of them. 

While one less union is involved in today’s strike, Unison says it has expanded the number of workers involved to all staff at the services, not just 999 response crews as was the case last month. 

GMB were due to take strike action on December 28 but cancelled the plans out of ‘appreciation’ for public support for the December 21 strike.

Which trusts will see ambulance staff walk-outs? 

  • South West Ambulance Service
  • South East Coast Ambulance Service
  • North West Ambulance Service
  • South Central Ambulance Service
  • North East Ambulance Service
  • East Midlands Ambulance Service
  • West Midlands Ambulance Service
  • Welsh Ambulance Service
  • Yorkshire Ambulance Service 
  • London Ambulance Service 

Union bosses instead rescheduled it to today. 

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