Striking County Durham paramedic warns 'people are dying' due to lack of ambulance staff

Striking paramedic John Lennon on the picket line in County Durham. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

A striking paramedic has said people are dying due to there not being enough ambulance workers on the road.

John Lennon, who joined a picket line in County Durham on Friday 10 February, told ITV Tyne Tees he was striking to save the service.

His trade union, Unison, is action for a fourth time in its dispute with the Government over pay and staffing.

Mr Lennon joined colleagues on the picket line, arguing that while the continuing strikes were "unfortunate", they remained necessary as the service struggles to recruit and retain staff.

He said: "People are dying as a result of the fact there's just not enough of us on the road.

"We cannot get to the jobs that we need to get to and one of the major reasons for that is the fact we're not paid enough."

Mr Lennon changed career to became a paramedic and says it is a job he loves.

As a rapid responder he travels across the region, providing life-saving treatment to patients.

Unison members on a picket line in County Durham. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

He blames the Government for the recruitment challenges facing the service and hopes the pickets will send a clear message to both the Prime Minister and the Health and Social Care Secretary.

"I think we're definitely sending it to the Government, to Steve Barclay and Rishi Sunak, saying look guys, you've got to come and talk to us," he said.

"The ambulance service is effectively broken.

"There's just not enough of us; we can't do the job we want to do. "

Unison, nationally, is calling for a pay rise above the rate of inflation, along with a series of other demands which it says will make roles in the ambulance service more attractive.

The Government has responded to the latest walkout by urging unions to call off strike action and concentrate on a pay deal for the coming financial year.

A spokesperson said: “The Health and Social Care Secretary has been clear he wants to continue discussing with unions what is fair and affordable as part of the 2023/24 pay process, including concerns around pay, conditions and workload to find ways to make the NHS a better place to work for everyone.

The spokesperson added: “He continues to urge unions to call off strikes and engage in a constructive dialogue about the Pay Review Body Process for the coming year.”

In the run up to the latest action, the North East Ambulance Service thanked people for their help in earlier walkouts this winter; for example, by only calling 999 in life-threatening emergencies.

Chief Operating Officer, Stephen Segasby said: "We will do all we can to keep our patients safe on Friday. As with the other periods of action, we are putting contingencies in place to maximise our available resources."

He added: "We ask that the public continue to consider which is the best service for their needs and only pick up the phone in a life or limb threatening emergency."

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