UNISON RESPONSE TO NHS LONDON AMBULANCE SERVICE STRIKE ACTION REPORT

Commenting on the report into the events of 30 November, commissioned by the Strategic Health Authority for London, NHS London, UNISON’s Regional Organiser for the LAS, Phil Thompson, said:

“UNISON worked closely and at every meeting with the London Ambulance Service to ensure that emergency cover could be provided to Londoners on 30 November.  UNISON and our members take the care of Londoners seriously and we’re proud that our members were able to do this as well as undertaking lawful industrial action, which was necessary due to the government’s approach to pension reform for health workers.“We continue to work closely not just with the LAS, but with the NHS throughout London, to provide the levels of care Londoners have a right to expect even with the reduced level of resources which is now being made available.”

Phil Thompson went on to say: “Unfortunately our request that Londoners should be advised well in advance not to phone 999 unless in real emergencies was not heeded.  This meant that that rather than a reduced service dealing with a reduced number of calls, there was a massive increase in calls; nearly 20% more 999 calls came though than on a normal day.  Against this background we called on members to ensure that they provided emergency cover from their picket lines. “One of the reasons why it was difficult to provide more emergency cover later on the day whilst the country-wide strike was taking place, was because in the Commons David Cameron, in an act of gross irresponsibility, said that the strike was proving ‘a damp squib’*.

Even more recklessly he went on to say that ‘there was full ambulance cover’.  Not only was this palpably untrue – within an hour of him saying it the LAS had declared a ‘Major Internal Incident’, but he simply steeled the resolve of ambulance workers to show that he was lying.” “The report into the death of a heart attack victim on the day concluded that they may not have survived had the ambulance reached them any sooner.  We must not forget that ambulance staff attend thousands of incidents and save hundreds of lives every day.”One of the most solid areas of strike action was in the London Ambulance Service (LAS) where ambulance workers felt bitterly let down by the government.

UNISON, the largest union in the public services, and the LAS, were conscious of the need to work together with employers to make sure that emergency cover was provided.  In an emergency service such as the LAS this was always going to be very difficult.  In the event, demand for 999 services in the capital increased by nearly a fifth and a Major Internal Incident was declared by the Service as it tried to provide the extra cover needed for London.  ENDS *

30 November saw the biggest strike in modern British history, prompted by the Government’s pension reform plans. On 30 November 2012 Cameron called the national strike action a damp squib, despite the hundreds of thousands of public service workers from more than a dozen unions, including paramedics, nurses, dinner ladies, social workers, teaching assistants, lollipop ladies amongst others, taking action and joining picket lines, demonstrations, rallies and events across the country to protest against the Government’s attempt to impose detrimental changes to their pension schemes.

For more information contact:  UNISON Press Office on 0207 121 5466

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