South East Coast, South Central and South Western NHS ambulance workers vote to strike

South East Coast Ambulance Credit: ITV Meridian

Workers at South East Coast, South Central and South Western Ambulance NHS trusts are to walkout on strike in a dispute over pay.

Paramedics, emergency care assistants, call handlers will be among more than 10,000 staff to take industrial action across nine trusts including those in England and Wales.

The trusts cover, Brighton & Hove, East Sussex, West Sussex, Kent, Surrey, North East Hampshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Dorset and Wiltshire.

Almost 3,500 people, represented by the GMB union, across the three trusts voted in favour of action.

Two ambulances operating for South Central Ambulance Service Credit: ITV Meridian

Union officials have slammed the Government's offer of a 4% pay increase for staff which they say in reality is a pay cut given soaring inflation.

Rachel Harrison, GMB National Secretary, said,

"Ambulance workers – like other NHS workers – are on their knees. 

"Demoralised and downtrodden, they’ve faced twelve years Conservative cuts to the service and their pay packets, fought on the frontline of a global pandemic and now face the worst cost of living crisis in a generation.  

"No one in the NHS takes strike action lightly – today shows just how desperate they are. 

"This is as much about unsafe staffing levels and patient safety as it is about pay. A third of GMB ambulance workers think delays they’ve been involved with have led to the death of a patient.  

"Something has to change or the service as we know it will collapse. 

"GMB calls on the Government to avoid a Winter of NHS strikes by negotiating a pay award that these workers deserve."

It comes after news that up to 100,000 nursing staff voted to take part in their first and biggest ever UK-wide strike this December, as a broader NHS pay row deepens.

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will take industrial action on December 15 and 20, it has been announced.

The two walkout dates were confirmed after members voted in favour of industrial action in a ballot, in what will be the RCN's first ever UK-wide strike in its 106-year history.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said:

"I’m hugely grateful for the hard work and dedication of NHS staff and deeply regret some will be taking industrial action – which is in nobody’s best interests as we approach a challenging winter.

"Our economic circumstances mean unions’ demands are not affordable - each additional 1% pay rise for all staff on the Agenda for Change contract would cost around £700 million a year.

"We’ve prioritised the NHS with record funding and accepted the independent pay review body recommendations in full to give over one million NHS workers a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year, with those on the lowest salaries receiving an increase of up to 9.3%.

"This is on top of 3% last year when public sector pay was frozen and wider government support with the cost of living.”

"Our priority is keeping patients safe during any strikes and the NHS has tried and tested plans to minimise disruption and ensure emergency services continue to operate.

"My door remains open to discuss with the unions ways we can make the NHS a better place to work."