Union members take to picket lines in Shropshire on the biggest day of strikes in the NHS

Ambulance service employees took to the picket lines for the fourth day in their pay and conditions dispute with the Government as the NHS faced its biggest ever strike.

Ambulance Strike - Donnington Ambulance Hub, Telford. GMB Union..
Ambulance Strike - Donnington Ambulance Hub, Telford. GMB Union..

Union members on the picket line at Donnington on Monday were fuming after ministers made disputed claims over 999 responses and whether talks were happening with the Government.

"There goes another one of Grant Shapps' non-responding crews," said Unite union rep Simon Chambers as an ambulance rushed off from the Telford hub on an emergency call. He was referring to claims by the business secretary that union members refusing to inform employers of details of their strike action.

Crews were still responding to category one and high level category two calls. Union members urged people with genuine life threatening emergencies to continue to call 999.

Mr Chambers, who lives in Staffordshire and works in Shropshire, has been a paramedic for 36 years. He said: "I was involved in the 1989-90 dispute and I never thought it would happen again.

"In the last 12 years it has all been about the underfunding and the running down of the NHS."

Now he says the service is having to respond to calls that social services or mental health services might have picked up previously.

"Now if someone cannot get their prescription, or cannot get to see the doctor for two weeks, they are calling 999."

On Tuesday, three members of the GMB from the West Midlands were part of a 50-strong delegation to Westminster.

But they say Simon Day, the regional rep, Jacqueline Murphy, Donnington rep and Steve Henriksen were "snubbed" in their effort to speak to government ministers.

Jacqueline Murphy, GMB Union's rep at Donnington Ambulance Hub, Telford

Mr Day said: "The government isn't responding. Their actions and words seem polls apart. They say they are talking to us on pay and exceptions in the strike action, but they are not.

"We are doing exceptions - members are going off on 999 calls regularly. They have turned their backs on us."

And Ms Murphy said: "We were approached by a member of the public who said someone had died while waiting for an ambulance but they don't blame us.

"We serve the community, people know us and we have been going out again and again and again. They blame the Government."

Union members were resolute about continuing with the action, which they say as defending the NHS as a whole from cuts.

Ambulance Strike - Donnington Ambulance Hub, Telford. GMB Union..

"We will continue to endeavour to make our case until we get sensible negotiations with the Government," said Ms Murphy.

And Mr Chambers said: "This has never been just about pay although we have had real terms pay cuts in the last 12 years.

"We have had to queue outside hospitals for many years.

"But we have come to the end of the line - it is just not sustainable any more."

Mr Chambers said he thought it was "sad" that Monday is the biggest day of strike action that the NHS has seen. We are being let down by the Government. If the NHS goes, we will never get it back."

Monday’s industrial action marks the first time the two groups - ambulance and nurses - have staged stoppages on the same day during the current wave of disputes convulsing public services.

It prompted NHS Providers – which represents trusts – to urge the public to use emergency services “wisely” as it warned the whole service was approaching a “crunch point”.

Over the weekend, Business Secretary Grant Shapps sparked anger among the ambulance unions when he accused them of putting patient lives at risk by refusing to inform employers of details of their strike action.

Union members in Shropshire said it was not true.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay repeated his call for the unions to call off their action as he insisted the Government could not give in to above-inflation pay claims.

“The Governor of the Bank of England warned if we try to beat inflation with high pay rises, it will only get worse and people would not be better off,” he said.

He added “I have held constructive talks with the trade unions on pay and affordability and continue to urge them to call off the strikes.”

However, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said he was “not telling the truth” as neither he nor Rishi Sunak had been are prepared to discuss pay.

Most Read

Most Read

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News