27 Jan 2015 - NWAS plan for proposed Industrial Action on 29 Jan 2015

The North West Ambulance Service is urging the public to help keep ambulances free and to take steps to keep safe, as it prepares for the possibility of staff taking industrial action this week.

The Trust can confirm that should action take place, it will commence at 0001 hours on 29 January for those staff who are members of the GMB union – the majority whom are based in the Cheshire & Merseyside area. Unison and Unite staff will commence strike action at 1200 hours on 29 January. All three unions will end their action at 2359 hours on 29 January.

This undoubtedly will put pressure on the Service and result in the majority of patients waiting longer for an ambulance response or being advised to seek alternative pathways of care, such as 111 by 999 operators.

Director of Operations, Derek Cartwright comments: “In the event of any strike action on Thursday, the Trust will be operating with limited resources for a 24 hour period so it will be more important than ever that those with life-threatening or potential life-threatening conditions are given priority. We would like the public to help us maintain a service for those who really need us by not calling 999 unless it is a life threatening or potentially life-threatening emergency.”

Negotiations regarding exemptions have taken place with union representatives and unions have agreed the following:

  • Staff, if they make themselves available, will only respond to Red 1 and Red 2 calls and only from picket lines. This means that ambulances won’t travel to incidents while travelling from hospital after conveying a patient there.
  • In previous periods of action, unions agreed that staff could respond to some Green major trauma calls – unfortunately on this occasion we have not had that reassurance. A large proportion of these calls are falls and road traffic collisions.
  • 50% of Emergency Medical Despatchers to be available (the staff who answer the 999 calls and despatch ambulances).
  • The Patient Transport Service will provide a service for oncology, dialysis and paediatric patients however, all other journeys will be cancelled.
  • Staff to abandon the strike in the event of a major incident being declared.

All the indications are that there will be a full complement of NWAS 111 staff on the day. It is likely that the majority of minor 999 calls will be advised to contact 111.

The Trust has explored all avenues to maintain as much of the service as possible if the planned action goes ahead. Former clinical staff who now work in support services will be asked to return to frontline duties, support staff have been trained to assist in control rooms and managers would respond to incidents using blue light fitted lease cars.

The Trust is also very grateful for the assistance of the private ambulance agencies which have offered support, as well as organisations such as the Red Cross, St John’s Ambulance and mountain rescue teams.

A request has been made by the Trust for assistance from the military and 100 army personnel are being trained in the use of NWAS ambulances as a precautionary measure. At this time, their use and deployment has not been confirmed and any decision to do so will be taken on the day.

Derek adds: “In the event of the industrial action taking place, it is vital that the public carefully consider whether or not their 999 call is necessary and we would urgently need their help so we maintain a service to those with life-threatening or potentially life-threatening conditions.

“We are asking friends and family of vulnerable people to make arrangements to support their relatives, friend or neighbour. Either to take them to hospital or use other healthcare options such as Urgent Care Centres, pharmacies, their GP and NHS 111.”

Patients and the public should consider the following:

  • If you are feeling unwell before Thursday 29 January do not wait to get help, but seek advice from your GP or pharmacist beforehand.
  • If you have a long-term or chronic condition and you are feeling unwell on Thursday 29 January, try not to be alone if you think you may need support to either get to hospital or to access other healthcare options.
  • If you have regular medication – please make sure you have collected your prescription from the GP, have been to the pharmacist to collect it and have it to hand.
  • If you are under the care of a community health team, make sure that you have their contact numbers to hand
  • If you are in the late stages of pregnancy please make check any arrangements you have made with friends or family to ensure that they can take you to hospital should you go into labour this Thursday, as the wait for an ambulance is likely to be a considerable one
  • Please take care when driving, particularly in the event of the forecast adverse weather