Ambulance workers stage fresh strike over pay as junior doctors announce March walkout

More than 11,000 ambulance workers will walk out in England and Wales on Monday

Thousands of ambulance workers are staging a fresh strike today in the long-running dispute over pay and staffing.

The strike will involve more than 11,000 members of the GMB union in England and Wales, including paramedics, emergency care assistants and call handlers. Ambulance workers in the Unite union in parts of the country are also on strike.

It comes as the number of health workers taking industrial action continues to grow, with junior doctors set to strike for the first time in the union’s history next month in a dispute over pay.

Speaking on behalf of ambulance workers, GMB national secretary Rachel Harrison accused the government of being “tin-eared”. She said: “Ambulance workers across England and Wales will strike today – entirely because this government is tin-eared.

“It’s been over a month since the government engaged in any meaningful dialogue. They are missing in action and refuse to talk pay. There’s a recruitment crisis in the NHS. Solving the issue of pay is vital if we’re going to stem the tide of dedicated healthcare workers leaving the profession. The public back ambulance workers. The government must listen to them and talk pay now.”

More than 11,000 ambulance workers will walk out in England and Wales today (Photo: Getty Images)
More than 11,000 ambulance workers will walk out in England and Wales today (Photo: Getty Images)
More than 11,000 ambulance workers will walk out in England and Wales today (Photo: Getty Images)

Junior doctors in the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) in England will walkout on 15 March. A ballot of training-grade doctors employed by NHS trusts in England in January saw 97.48% vote in favour of striking, on a 74.76% turnout.

Announcing a walkout, HCSA president Dr Naru Narayanan said: “Junior doctors have held together patient care amid a spiralling staffing crisis. In return for this huge emotional, mental and physical toll they’ve been subjected to a decade of real-terms pay cuts totalling over 26%. Enough is enough.

“Our NHS is in an intolerable situation and junior doctors will not be taken for granted anymore. They are taking decisive action for their patients and for their own wellbeing. Falling pay, increasing workloads and dangerous levels of understaffing have driven carers across the NHS to strike.

“The blame for this lies solely with a complacent government, seemingly content to let patient care suffer. The ball is firmly in the government’s court. It must act now to negotiate a proper pay increase -part of a wider funding package for the NHS.”

Around 45,000 junior doctors who are members of the British Medical Association (BMA) in England have also been balloted on strike action – with the result to be announced on Monday (20 January). As a big vote in favour of walkouts is expected, the BMA has already warned it will stage a three-day strike if there is a yes vote.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We hugely value the work of junior doctors and we have been clear that supporting and retaining the NHS workforce is one of our main priorities.

“As part of a multi-year deal we agreed with the BMA, junior doctors’ pay has increased by a cumulative 8.2% since 2019/20. We also introduced a higher pay band for the most experienced staff and increased rates for night shifts.

“The Health and Social Care Secretary has met with the BMA and other medical unions to discuss pay, conditions and workload. He’s been clear he wants to continue discussing how we can make the NHS a better place to work for all.”

Meanwhile, Nurses will continue their action with a 48-hour strike starting on 1 March, with the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) saying it has received £250,000 in public donations since starting its campaign in December.

Striking nurses will be paid 60% more by the RCN than during previous walkouts, it has been revealed. The union is increasing the day rate for those on the picket line from £50 to £80.

Nurses who have already gone on strike for four days will get £120 a day as the RCN dips into a £50 million fighting fund before an unprecedented full 48-hour walkout on 1 March.

The daily take-home pay of a nurse on the average salary of £36,000 is about £135, assuming a four-day working week. A typical nurse who took part in all six strike days, plus the two in March, could in theory claim £540 in strike pay – but will have lost £1,080.

The RCN said the move is aimed at shoring up nurses’ resolve and to undermine the government’s strategy to “wait out the strikes rather than negotiate”.

Hospital trusts have been told to submit a risk assessment of next month’s strikes to NHS England by midday on Monday.