Ambulances will be dispatched to “life-threatening” Category 1 calls during the two days of industrial action this month but may not attend if an elderly person has a fall, Health Secretary Steve Barclay has suggested.
Asked whether an elderly individual who has had a fall will receive help on two strike dates – 21 and 28 December – Mr Barclay told Sky News the government is discussing what will be covered with the trade unions.
“They have said that they will cover life-threatening conditions.
“So there’s four categories of call: Life-threatening, which is Category 1, emergency, which is Category 2. Those tend to be things like heart attacks and strokes. So your case would often be classed as a Category 3 or Category 4.
“At the moment, the trade unions are saying those things wouldn’t be covered.”
Pressed on whether an ambulance would arrive if somebody has had a suspected heart attack, he added: “Well, the indication from the trade unions is that it would.”
Asked about possible strokes, Mr Barclay replied: “Well we are having those discussions. Obviously the trade unions said to us they didn’t want to get into the details of exactly what derogations, what things would be covered and what would not until they announced the date of the strike.
“Now they have done that, there are discussions that will take place tomorrow in terms of what exactly will be covered by that.”
More than 10,000 ambulance workers across nine trusts in England and Wales will strike on 21 and 28 December as part of coordinated industrial action by the GMB, Unison and Unite unions in a row over pay.
Ambulance workers from the GMB union, including paramedics, emergency care assistants, call handlers and other staff, will strike at the following trusts:
• South West Ambulance Service
• South East Coast Ambulance Service
• North West Ambulance Service
• South Central Ambulance Service
• North East Ambulance Service
• East Midlands Ambulance Service
• West Midlands Ambulance Service
• Welsh Ambulance Service
• Yorkshire Ambulance Service
Unite said more than 1,600 of its members at the West Midlands, North West and North East ambulance service trusts would also join the walkout on 21 December.
Ambulance workers who are members of Unison will join the strike at five services in England: London, Yorkshire, the North West, North East and South West.
The strikes will go ahead after the Royal College of Nursing staged their second walkout, which was also over pay.
Last week, workers across the ambulance services and some NHS trusts voted to take industrial action over the government’s 4% pay award, which the GMB union has described as another “massive real-terms pay cut”.
The government says it cannot afford such demands, and increasing wages higher than inflation will push prices up further.
The union said on Tuesday that its representatives will now meet with individual trusts to discuss requirements for “life and limb cover” on the two confirmed dates.
Rachel Harrison, GMB national secretary, said: “The government could stop this strike in a heartbeat – but they need to wake up and start negotiating on pay.”
Unite called the action a “stark warning” to the government, which it urged to stem the “crisis” engulfing the NHS.
The union said it would maintain essential emergency cover for patients.