'Stay safe' says East of England ambulance service as it prepares to strike next week

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They will still attend urgent life threatening calls

The East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) is urging the public to stay safe as strike action takes place next week.

On Monday (March 6), members of GMB union will be taking industrial action in a national disbute over pay. And on Wednesday, March 8, members of UNION will be striking between 10am and 10pm.

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They will still be attending urgent life threatening calls – as well as those where there is a risk ‘to life and limb’.

Ambulances park outside Accident and Emergency ward  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)Ambulances park outside Accident and Emergency ward  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Ambulances park outside Accident and Emergency ward (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

But they have warned there will be fewer ambulances on the road and staff in control rooms – and have urged people only to dial 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk.

This is the first time that strike action has taken place at EEAST in this round of industrial action, with both unions meeting the threshold on re-balloting members.

But they say extensive planning has been undertaken to make the service as safe as possible while industrial action goes ahead – and ambulance services who have taken part in previous action have shared their learning with EEAST.

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EEAST planners have been working closely with the unions to agree which incidents staff involved in industrial action will respond to.

UNISON members will attend urgent life threatening ‘category 1’ calls from picket lines, as well as other incidents where there is a clinical assessment of a risk to ‘life and limb’.

GMB members have also agreed to attend category 1 calls and for calls for backup to attend patients with an immediate life- or-limb threatening condition.

Where the situation is not life-threatening, alternative support will be available through 111 online. Patients may be advised to arrange alternative transport to hospital.

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Tom Abell, Chief Executive at EEAST, said: “We understand the strength of feeling of our people who are taking industrial action around the national issue of pay and we have been working hard to make the service as safe as possible during the days of industrial action.

“There has been lots of learning shared across ambulance services from previous days of industrial action which has helped shape our plans.

“We have been working closely with our unions to continue to do all we can to keep patients safe. However, we will have fewer ambulances out on the roads and fewer staff in our control rooms, and we would urge people to seek alternatives to calling 999 if possible, such as 111, GPs and pharmacies. “If it is a serious medical emergency, please do not hesitate to call 999.”

UNISON Eastern regional organiser Peter Passingham said: “Ambulance staff are taking action with a heavy heart, but years of falling pay and underfunding from national government have left us with no choice.

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“We're glad that we could work with EEAST to ensure that staff can continue to provide life-saving help to the public during industrial action. If the government took the same constructive approach to dialogue with trade unions as EEAST, it’s unlikely we would be forced to take industrial action.”