“Cynical media commentators and government ministers will pin the blame for the NHS crisis on striking ambulance staff but planned strikes will not have anything like the impact as years of cuts and privatisation.”
By Helen O’Connor
GMB members working in emergency services are on strike on Dec 21st and 28th and we are calling on everyone to get to the picket lines and support them. These members are striking as a last resort because government policies have plunged emergency services into a deep crisis.
Pay is not keeping pace with inflation which is driving staff out of the service. Covering vacancies is leaving staff exhausted and the service unsafe for patients. Our members know things don’t have to be this way and that if the Tories invested in their pay this would go some way towards retaining the experienced staff in the service.
The emergency ambulance services, just like the NHS, have been fragmented and hollowed out from years of cutbacks as the private sector is prioritised to receive an increasing proportion of the health care budget. Private ambulance companies are moving into emergency services and self employed paramedics and ambulance care assistants pick up the work that used to be covered by Paramedics employed in house. These self employed personnel will benefit from a slightly higher rate of pay but not from sick pay or holiday pay.
The regular crews who are now aligned to the NHS agenda for change pay scales are in the same boat as nurses because the value of NHS pay has plummeted over the past decade.
To add insult to injury ambulance crews are also bearing the brunt of years of cuts to the NHS too. Crews end up stuck with patients in the backs of vehicles because there are not enough staff or beds in hospitals. The NHS has lost 25 thousand beds over the last ten years and the waiting list for treatment is now topping 7 million because not every patient can just go to a pharmacy to get their health issue resolved. An overloaded NHS that has been pared back to the bone is unable to cope with a regular level of demand. In one of the richest countries in the world people are dying at home or on the street because ambulance crews are not free to get to them on time.
Cynical media commentators and government ministers will pin the blame for the NHS crisis on striking ambulance staff but planned strikes will not have anything like the impact as years of cuts and privatisation. We have to remember that patients are being shut out of the NHS and they are suffering and dying anyway. Ambulance staff are living through the horrific consequences of not being able to get to casualties on time every day and many are suffering stress and trauma themselves as a result. They have now had enough and know that they need to fight back to defend their patients and push back against the cuts and privatisation that is destroying emergency services.
GMB ambulance members are not just striking for themselves they are striking for the patients. Striking Ambulance crews and nurses are the last line of defence against the fire sale of health services in this country and if we care about free healthcare and not being bankrupted by the extortionate cost of medical bills we must support them.