On Wednesday, thousands of ambulance workers in Britain went on a one-day strike as unions, and the government traded blame for endangering lives.
As paramedics, call handlers, and technicians across England and Wales staged their largest walkout in three decades, the government advised citizens to lower their chance of needing an ambulance by refraining from playing contact sports, making needless road trips, and drinking alcohol.
Three ambulance unions went on a 12- or 24-hour strike. Although officials promised to react to calls involving life-threatening situations, they warned they couldn’t ensure that everyone who needed an ambulance would receive one.
According to Health Secretary Steve Barclay, speaking to Sky News, today will put a lot of strain on the system.
“We’re advising the people to use common sense when deciding what they do, keeping in mind the system’s pressures,” the statement reads.
People were urged not to get “blindly intoxicated” by Stephen Powis, national medical director of the National Health Service in England.
Pre-Christmas is the season of parties, so have fun, but definitely don’t get too wasted and needlessly attend the emergency department, the man advised.
In the face of decades-high inflation that was running at 10.7% in November, healthcare professionals and other public sector employees are asking for significant pay increases.
The Conservative government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak claims that inflation would increase considerably more if public sector workers received raises of double digits.
Union leaders charged that the administration purposefully extended the strike.
Sharon Graham, the head of the Unite union that represents some ambulance crew, remarked that she had never witnessed such a display of leadership as she had from Rishi Sunak and the health secretary.
She stated, “This government can make different decisions,” when stopping by a picket line in the middle of England.
Although they may claim that “truly we chose to invest in the individuals in the (health service),” they are considering other options because they don’t want this to end. They seemingly want this crisis to exist.
A health system already under pressure from rising demand as pandemic restrictions ease, staff shortages from burnout, and Brexit—which has made it more difficult for Europeans to work in the U.K.—has been further burdened by nurses’ two days of strikes this month.
According to official figures, there are often hours-long waits for ambulances outside hospital emergency rooms because there aren’t enough beds for the patients.
Harry Maskers, an emergency medical technician from Cardiff, Wales, said, “Most of the time, I’ll sign on to an ambulance and the first task of the day is to go down to the hospital, replace the night or day crew, and then I will stay my whole shift outside the hospital.”
He remarked, “I feel like this cycle will continue unless I take action.”
On December 28, ambulance crews will strike once more.
Additionally, railway employees, passport agents, and postal workers organize walkouts over the Christmas break.
In reaction to a cost-of-living crisis brought on by skyrocketing food and energy costs in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the U.K. is currently experiencing its most severe wave of strikes in decades.
The British government predicts that the public will turn against unions nationwide. hospital visits, rail cancellations, and travel delays are standard throughout the winter holiday season.
However, surveys of public opinion reveal strong support for the workers.