On Wednesday, thousands of British ambulance workers began a strike. Unions and government exchanged accusations that they were putting lives in danger.
As paramedics, technicians, and call-handlers across England and Wales held their largest walkout in over three decades, the government warned people to avoid contact sports and not take unnecessary car trips.
Trois ambulance unions went on strike for 12 hours or 24. Officials said that although they had promised to respond to all life-threatening emergencies, it was not possible to guarantee an ambulance for everyone.
Sky News’ Health Secretary Steve Barclay stated that “The system is going to be under extremely severe pressure today.” We are asking the public to use their common sense and be mindful of the pressures on the system.
Stephen Powis was the national medical director for England’s National Health Service. He advised that people avoid getting “blind drunk.”
He said, “It is the season for parties pre-Christmas. So have fun, but don’t drink to excess that it leads you to an unneeded visit” in an emergency room.
In the face of inflation at 10.7%, which has been running for decades, health care workers and others in public service are asking for big increases.
Prime Minister Rishi Sonak, a Conservative government, argued that inflation would rise even more if there were double-digit increases in the public sector.
Union leaders accused government officials of intentionally prolonging strike.
Sharon Graham, the leader of Unite Union that represents ambulance personnel said: “I’ve never witnessed such a denial of leadership as from Rishi Sunak or the health secretary.”
She visited a picket-line in central England and said that “this government could make other choices.” You can claim that we invest in people (in the health service), but they’re looking at other options because they don’t want it to stop. They want the crisis to continue.”
Two days of strike action by nurses were also taken place this month. This adds pressure to a system already facing strain due to rising demand and pandemic restrictions being eased.
According to official statistics, ambulances are often stuck outside hospitals emergency departments for several hours because they don’t have enough beds.
Harry Maskers from Cardiff, Wales, an emergency medical technie, stated that “a lot of times, I’ll sign onto an ambulance and my first job is to go to the hospital and relieve the night crew and then I will spend the whole day outside the hospital.”
He said, “I feel that unless I take actions, this pattern would continue.”
On Dec. 28, ambulance crews will strike once again. Over the Christmas holidays, railway staff, passport officers, and postal workers will also be striking. This is the UK’s largest strike in decades. It’s a reaction to the cost of living crisis caused by the rising food and energy costs and Russia’s invasion.
As people in the U.K. are facing delayed hospital visits, cancelled trains, and delays due to the holiday season, the government believes that the public will be hostile towards the unions. However, opinion polls indicate that there is a lot of support for workers.