Ambulance strikes: Workers 'extremely sad' to take to pickets over pay and conditions

Paramedics, emergency medical technicians, call handlers and other staff are taking part in industrial action this week in a dispute over pay and working conditions.

Staff have been taking to picket lines across Wales and the UK, with one ambulance worker telling ITV Cymru Wales: "Things have to change because we can't carry on like this now.

"Lives are at risk every single minute of every single day because of this government and because of the situation that we're in.

"I joined the ambulance service in 1995 and I am extremely, extremely sad to be in this situation today."

The GMB union’s South West and Wales representative has said in one Welsh Ambulance Service depot all striking members have had to be called away from the picket line on emergency calls.

Nathan Holman tweeted a video of himself alone at Pentwyn service station in Cardiff just before 8am on Wednesday – less than an hour into the day-long walkout.

Mr Holman said: “I’m standing here on the picket line outside Pentwyn ambulance station.

“Unfortunately, all the members have had to go because, as you can see behind me, there’s only one vehicle left, they’ve all jumped on a vehicle and responded to emergency calls.

“So, just shows we’re still responding to the public.”

Around 1,500 ambulance staff in Wales are expected to take part in Wednesday’s industrial action.

Niall Allen and Hannah Bull have been paramedics for four years and say they've been left feeling 'disheartened'.

Nigel Webb, an ambulance service worker, added: "It's frustrating turning up at jobs and families have been waiting hours and hours, sometimes 12 hours.

"You feel as though you're letting them down. Something needs to be done."

Staff from across the ambulance services and some NHS Trusts voted to strike over the UK Government's imposed 4% pay award.

The Welsh Government, which decides how much Welsh Ambulance Service employees are paid, said it cannot offer a better offer without more funding.

Wales' Health Minister Eluned Morgan MS spoke to ITV Cymru Wales' Health Reporter Katie Fenton about the strikes.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan MS said: "We are in a situation in Wales where we are dependent on the money that's given to us by the UK Government. We're a poorer, sicker and an older population than they have in England and that should be reflected in the amount of money that we get.

"We need some more money in order to increase any pay offer that we could give to NHS workers.

"I've written to the Secretary of State to ask for that to happen, I still haven't received a response."

The Health Minister added: "We're doing all we can and part of the problem is the flow through our hospitals and that's because of the pressure in the social care system to a large extent.

"We've said that we're going to increase the amount of money that we're going to pay to social care workers to attract more people into the sector.

"That will help the flow of workers through the hospital and help the flow of patients."

People across Wales are being urged only to call for an ambulance in life-threatening and serious emergencies as many 999 calls are expected to be missed.