Public urged not to call 999 during strike unless essential

A North East Ambulance Service vehicle.
A North East Ambulance Service vehicle.

People in the North East have been urged not to call 999 during Monday’s national ambulance strike unless it is absolutely essential.

Trades unions have outlined which type of calls will receive an ambulance response in the North East region during Monday’s second four-hour national strike over pay.

Unison and GMB have said that only patients with a life-threatening condition should receive an emergency or patient transport vehicle during the four-hour strike and have exempted their members from action to respond to these incidents.

The action is being taken following ballots across the country, where union members voted for strike action, which is planned to take place between 7am and 11am. The unions will also be applying restrictions on responding to non-life-threatening incidents in the last hour of each shift for the rest of the week until midnight on Sunday

This is a national dispute that cannot be resolved by the North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust.

The Trust said it is imperative that during this period, the public should only use the 999 number in a life-threatening emergency.

Paul Liversidge, chief operating officer, said: “Our overriding obligation is to provide a high quality and safe service to patients. Our focus is on taking all reasonable steps to mitigate the consequences of this action and we have negotiated with the unions to ensure that the impact of their action is minimised on our emergency care, patient transport and both 999 and 111 services.

“However, we expect the strike action to have a considerable impact on our ability to respond to emergency calls.”

NEAS will not be able to respond to non-life-threatening green calls, nor provide a service for GP practices requesting urgent transport between 7am and 11am on Monday.

The action is also expected to affect the answering of 999 and 111 calls and cause a delay in dispatching.

The Trust said there will be pressure in its contact centre throughout the day as it works to clear a backlog of calls and routine appointments.

During the four hours of the strike, the Patient Transport Service (PTS) will also be significantly affected.

The ambulance trust has postponed training and non-essential meetings during the strike action and will be placing qualified managers and appropriately trained support staff onto front-line duties where appropriate.

Mr Liversidge said: “We recognise the right of our staff to take this action, and understand that the decision is a difficult one for those who choose to take part.”

The unions have agreed that all NEAS staff will return to normal duties in the event of a major incident in the North East during the strike period.