Paramedic on Nottingham picket line 'can only afford to have heating on for two hours'

Vimal Mistry (left), was one of the ambulance workers on the picket line outside East Midlands Ambulance Service, Beechdale Ambulance station in Nottingham. Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Paramedics have told of "demoralising" conditions in A&E and have described only being able to afford to put on their heating for two hours as they stood on picket lines in the latest walkout over pay. 

Half a dozen GMB union members were out on the picket line on Wednesday morning outside the Beechdale Ambulance Station in Nottingham.

They were among the 25,000 ambulance workers across England and Wales who walked out in a dispute over pay and working conditions.

One of those on strike in Nottingham was Vimal Mistry, a paramedic for seven years.

Mr Mistry said waiting for hours to hand over patients to emergency departments is “horrendous” and it has become far worse over the last four weeks.

“After the pandemic things have just got worse," he said. "People are queuing at hospitals, (queuing for) primary care.

Ambulance workers on the picket line outside East Midlands Ambulance Service, Beechdale Ambulance station in Nottingham Credit: Jacob King/PA

“People can’t get appointments anymore so they put off going to the doctor’s and when it gets worse they come to us.

“Staff see all this and just get run down.

“With interest rates and fuel costs going up, people just can’t afford the things they could do before.

“I’m now having to think about how much heating I have on in the house – I have it on for two hours now.”

Another worker, who wished to remain anonymous, said she joined East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) as a member of ambulance support crew eight months ago, having previously worked in the control room.

She described struggles to get to patients caused by handover delays.

She said: “From when I came in, it’s been so busy. The norm is for ambulances to wait for hours. It’s not common to be on stand-by, or waiting for a job allocation. It’s always been hard.

“It’s not pleasant getting to a job that’s possibly 24 hours old. It’s just really disheartening – going to a patient who has possibly been on the floor for 12 hours is just so disheartening.”

Ambulance workers on the picket line outside East Midlands Ambulance Service. Credit: PA

She added: “It’s really hard. I bought a house at the start of last year when electricity and gas didn’t cost what it does now.

“I took that into my budget and I could afford it, whereas now I am having to think about when I’m putting the heating on, what food I’m buying.

“I can’t just go out shopping with my friends or go to bars. I really need to think about what I’m spending my money on.

“On New Year’s Eve, I fortunately got it off, and all my friends were going to go out but I couldn’t afford it because I don’t get paid enough and don’t have the savings to just splash out.”

She said she is currently “getting by” but this could soon become unsustainable, and that, while she does not want to leave her job, she could be forced to if things do not improve.

Paramedic Jenny Giblin, 38, was on a picket line in Birkenhead, Wirral, with 16-month-old son James Evans.

She said: “I’ve been a paramedic for seven years and it’s definitely got worse.

“We used to have to queue outside hospitals at certain times, like with winter pressures, but now it’s every day. Corridors are almost like wards.

“Sometimes you spend a whole shift on a corridor.

“It’s demoralising. I dread coming into work sometimes because I know what’s going to happen.”

Meanwhile, several drivers honked their horns in a show of support as they passed the station, which is also the Nottinghamshire divisional headquarters and training centre for EMAS.

Several members of the public also stopped to say they are supporting those on strike.

The strikes across the two nations are taking place in a staggered format across 24 hours. Paramedics, call handlers, drivers and technicians from the Unison and GMB unions are among those walking out.

None of the workers will strike for longer than 12 hours, with call handlers expected to walk out for six-hour periods.

NHS England has told patients to continue to call 999 for life-threatening emergencies, but to use 111, GPs and pharmacies for non-urgent needs.

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