Ambulance workers on strike told of the huge pressure on services as they went out on strike on Wednesday 11 January.
Paramedics, emergency care assistants and call handlers are on strike from 7 am to 7 pm on in Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire and Northamptonshire.
The walkout is the second in a month following a similar action on December 21.
The Government says most ambulance staff have already received a rise of at least four per cent, increasing the average basic pay per person to around £34,300.
But around 2,000 East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) workers – around half its total workforce – took part in a wave of nationwide action today to try to push the Government for a pay rise above inflation and highlight ongoing NHS pressures.
Rachael Dexter, an EMAS technician who has worked for the service for three years, is on strike but still responding to category one and two calls.
She said: “Morally it doesn’t sit right with me not to go out to someone who needs us.
“For me, it’s not just about pay, we ate understaffed and under-resourced. We need more funding, more ambulances and more staff.
“Hospitals are absolutely rammed at the moment, it’s not their fault but there’s a big shortage in social care which stops people going home which has a knock-on effect on us.
“We are in a queue waiting to hand someone over and while we’re there we hear immediately life-threatening calls that none of us can respond to. It’s really frustrating.
“The public need education on when to call and what is life-threatening. Today, people are being told to only call if it’s life-threatening and that should be every day.”
Lance Allen, an ambulance technician, was not on shift today but joined his colleagues in solidarity. He has worked for EMAS for five years.
He said: “Ambulance services across the country are at breaking point, we’re knackered, we’re exhausted but we’re still doing our best.
“It’s busier than it ever has been. We are working harder than we ever have done. We are attending more jobs than we ever have.
“We are going to people who would usually wait two hours on the floor and now they are waiting eight to 10 hours. We are seeing that more often than not.
“I used to be able to do four jobs in the first six hours of my shift. Now I’m lucky if I get to do one.
“Pay is part of it – there needs to be a substantial pay rise to help us with the cost of living like every other sector in the country.”
He added that there has been a “phenomenal change” in his five years working for the service.
He added: “Once we are with a patient we cannot leave them until we have handed them over, we will have our radios on so control will give us shutouts.
“We are hearing more and more of these shout-outs for category one calls – immediately life-threatening calls – and the nearest resource for a call in Nottingham can be 45 minutes away because it’s coming from somewhere like Worksop.”
Mark Dawn, Branch secretary for GMB EMAS and a trained paramedic, added: “If not now, when? At some point, this will grind to a halt.
“Ambulances are outside hospitals for up to 10 hours with people on board. Why is that allowed to be the case?
“Three years ago we clapped on the doorstep and it was quite humbling. Boris said we were heroes, but now we are seen as villains.
“In December the government weren’t talking at all, now they’ve started to talk a little bit. They need to talk more.
“The sooner the government addresses this the sooner it ends.”
Ben Holdaway, Director of Operations at EMAS, said the last day of strike action in December was “immensely challenging”.
He said: “We are again working closely with trade union colleagues, and NHS and blue-light service providers across the region to do all we can to minimise the impact on patient safety.
“Our operational teams have developed contingency plans to aim to maximise the number of ambulance staff and volunteers we have available to respond to patients, as well as clinical staff able to carry out remote clinical assessments.
“However, we again anticipate that on Wednesday there will be fewer ambulances available and therefore our responses to our patients will, inevitably, be much slower on the day.”
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “Today’s ambulance strike is an unwelcome return to unnecessary disruption and comes at a time when the NHS is already under huge pressure from Covid and flu.
“While we have contingency plans in place, including support from the military, community first responders and extra call handlers, to mitigate risks to patient safety, there will inevitably be some disruption for patients with fewer ambulances on the road.”
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