A North East NHS boss has warned the public there "will be delays in answering calls" as ambulance workers are set to on strike on Wednesday 11 January.
Stephen Segasby, chief operating officer for the North East Ambulance Service has advised the public only to call 999 if it is a life threatening situation.
He said: "There will potentially be a lack of staff available to answer the calls so there will be a delay in answering those calls.
"The system will still be working. We have obviously put a lot of mitigations in place to be able to still continue with answering calls, but there may be a delay in terms of the 111 and the less urgent calls because we will be prioritising the 999 aspect of calls.
“We would recommend that people look to 111 online.
“For those who can make their own way, we would advise doing so and also looking to other parts of healthcare if available.
“The most important thing is that if they are facing a life threatening situation then dial 999.
"If it's not life threatening, if it's a more urgent nature, then refer to 111 or your primary care; so your GPs, your pharmacy or go to 111 online where an assessment can be made online of that individual.”
It comes as almost 750 GMB Union ambulance workers across the North East will strike today on Wednesday 11 January.
Workers across the ambulance services and some NHS Trusts have voted to strike over the Government’s suggested 4 per cent pay increase which UNISON have said is another massive real terms pay cut.
Miles Elliott, UNISON regional organiser, said: "UNISON members have taken the difficult decision to strike tomorrow to challenge the pay cut that was imposed on them last year by Government and to highlight the staffing crisis in the NHS.
"The NHS is on its knees at the moment because NHS staff are leaving for better paid and less stressful work elsewhere and health trusts across the country and in the North East are unable to full vacancies because the pay offer is too low.
"This is a staffing crisis that been made in Downing Street because the Government's refusal, for many years now, to not properly fund the NHS and then the decision by Government not to pay NHS staff enough which is jeopardising patient safety everyday of the year.
"This strike action aims to highlight this.
"Its a decision taken reluctantly by members and the solution, really, is for Government to negotiate with us to resolve these issues.
"What NHS UNISON members are asking for is a pay rise thats in the region of inflation.
"We have NHS trusts across the country setting up food banks for their own staff and staff are leaving, staff that don't want to leave."
Government secretary for health and social care , Steve Barclay, said: “Today’s ambulance strike is an unwelcome return to unnecessary disruption and comes at a time when the NHS is already under huge pressure from Covid and flu.
“While we have contingency plans in place, including support from the military, community first responders and extra call handlers, to mitigate risks to patient safety, there will inevitably be some disruption for patients with fewer ambulances on the road.
“Patients should continue to call 999 for life-saving care and use NHS 111 online services for urgent health advice.”
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