Ambulance control during strikes feels pressure as calls without immediate threat to life face waits

Midday at ambulance control.

It was the first 12 hours of strike action and more than 200 calls for medical assistance had been received.

Half of those calls were categories one and two - the most serious, time critical, emergency calls.

Striking ambulance crews left their picket lines to respond.

But those callers that didn’t need an immediate emergency response had to wait. 

Several times I heard control room crews trying to explain why they could not dispatch an ambulance. 

“We are in the middle of industrial action and we have limited ambulances available. There is no immediate threat to life so I can’t send you an ambulance. I am sorry,” one emergency responder told a caller. 

Days of talks between health trust managers and unions meant that plans were in place to ensure emergency and critical care services across the health service were protected.

But the ripple effects of 24 hour strike action will be felt over the next few days.

The Ambulance Service will have to catch up on all the calls they couldn’t respond to. 

Emergency Departments will feel the pressure from the inability to discharge patients from wards.

All postponed outpatient appointments and procedures will have to be rescheduled - lengthening waiting lists further. 

With no breakthrough in this health dispute on the horizon, we could see the intensification of industrial action. 

That could be devastating for an already fragile health service.

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