Four-hour NHS strike over pay

The strike will last from 7am to 11am, with ambulance workers doing no overtime for the rest of the

The strike will last from 7am to 11am, with ambulance workers doing no overtime for the rest of the week - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Health workers including midwives, nurse and paramedics have walked out on strike this morning as part of national action over pay.

Hospital porters and cleaners will also be among those manning picket lines between 7am and 11am today.

The action has resulted in the Metropolitan Police agreeing to support the London Ambulance Service (LAS) as part of its contingency plan.

Scotland Yard said it was “making police resources available, specifically 74 ‘double-staffed’ response vehicles”.

LAS director of operations Jason Killens said plans were in place to see “the most seriously ill and injured patients” could still be reached.

Clinical managers will continue to work, there will be the use of private ambulance crews and support from other emergency services.

He said: “However, people who need an ambulance response, but not in a life threatening situation should expect to wait longer or may not get an ambulance at all.”

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There will also be action “short of strike” during the rest of the week until Friday.

This is expected to include a reduction in the number of ambulance staff available to do overtime.

He said: “During the strike action we will have paramedics and doctors in our control room who will carry out an enhanced assessment of patients to make sure we target our response to those who need us most.

“As always we ask that they call NHS111 and only call 999 for an ambulance in a genuine emergency so we have ambulance crews free to respond to life-threatening emergencies.”

Unions are protesting at the government’s decision not to accept the independent pay review body’s recommendation to award a one per cent pay rise to all staff. Instead, ministers took the “divisive” decision to only award a 1pc pay rise for those on the top of their pay band, which unions say has denied it to 60pc of NHS workers.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, who joined a picket line near Euston in London, said: “NHS staff are always reluctant strikers - there hasn’t been a national strike over pay in the health service since 1982 - and they will do everything they can to protect patients in their care. But morale has hit rock-bottom.

“Not only have NHS staff faced year-on-year cuts in the relative value of their pay, ministers have turned down the recommendations of the independent pay review body, even though it called for an affordable, below-inflation pay rise.”

NHS England’s chief nursing officer Jane Cummings said: “We know that NHS staff are highly professional and always wish to put patients first. I am sure they will think very carefully before taking strike action to ensure the safety and care of patients is not put at risk.

“As a nurse, I know that Monday mornings are often extremely busy for the NHS and it may be busier than normal this Monday because of the strike action being taken by some staff. As ever, the safety and care of patients is our top priority and we have robust plans in place to cope.

A national survey of over 3,300 NHS employees by Unison showed that just over half were overdrawn every month.

The study, published ahead of a four-hour strike by health employees on Monday, found that extra jobs included lifeguard, tourist guide, hairdresser, driving instructor, gardener and dog groomer.

Ahead of the strike, a Department of Health spokesman said: “We are disappointed that trade unions are taking industrial action.

“NHS staff are our greatest asset, and we’ve increased the NHS budget to pay for over 12,500 more clinical staff since 2010.

“We cannot afford a pay rise in addition to increments - which disproportionately reward the highest earners - without risking frontline jobs.”