Ambulance service warns scammers are posing as striking staff for donations
Fraudsters have been posing as ambulance staff and asking people for donations
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The North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) said the fraudsters are pretending to be ambulance service staff and have been asking people for donations to cover wages lost due to industrial action. People are being warned not to donate any money and to report any suspicious behaviour to the police.
In a statement posted on social media, NWAS said: “We have been made aware that there are some people in Manchester posing as ambulance service staff and knocking on people’s doors asking for donations to pay wages whilst on strike.
“Please note, these people are not North West Ambulance Service staff, so please don’t donate. If you find their behaviour concerning, please report it to the police via 101.”
NWAS paramedic and GMB member Paul Turner described the behaviour of the scammers as “absolutely outrageous” and told Sky News: “GMB is not taking part in any fundraising of this kind. Betraying people’s trust in this way is absolutely outrageous. What is wrong with people?”
The scam warning comes just days after the NWAS issued an appeal on Twitter asking people to only call 999 for life-threatening emergencies as ambulance crews are “extremely busy” due to the recent cold weather and hospital handover delays putting pressure on staff.
NWAS added that it is maximising its resources by putting all clinically trained staff on the responding frontline, increasing its use of private providers and working with healthcare partners to guide non-urgent cases to other healthcare services, but it pleaded with people to “think before dialling 999”.
Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said it is “shocking” that patients can no longer call 999 and expect an ambulance to arrive on time, blaming “mismanagement” by the Tories for the strain on NHS services.
More strike action looms
Thousands of ambulance workers are set to go on strike next week in a bitter dispute over pay, with the action co-ordinated by the GMB, Unison and Unite unions.
Ambulance workers and other NHS staff will stage a strike in England on Wednesday 21 December, co-ordinated by the GMB, Unison and Unite, and then again on Wednesday 28 December.
In a separate dispute in Scotland, strikes by ambulance staff and some NHS workers have been called off after members of Unison and Unite voted to accept the Scottish government’s most recent pay deal.
The Police Federation has warned that police officers may be called on to drive ambulances as paramedics go on strike. Under national contingency plans it was understood that military personnel would be drafted in to help drive ambulances as strikes go ahead later this month, but it has since emerged that police officers may also be called upon to help drive the emergency healthcare vehicles.
The police body representing around 140,000 rank and file officers said that “police are not ambulance drivers or qualified paramedics”, with National chairman Steve Hartshorn describing the request as one of “grave concern” as it would mean officers are “not performing their police duties”.
Mr Hartshorn said: “At a time when the thin blue line is overstretched and under pressure like never before, this request gives me grave concern for the welfare of our members. Police officers driving ambulances may make sense to some; many officers are uniquely qualified to drive both emergency service vehicles, but this is where any similarity ends.
“It’s important to remember every officer that would be driving an ambulance is an officer not performing their police duties. I have genuine concern for any officer who may be exposed to medical emergencies they are not qualified to act on.
“The human consequences are awful to imagine, but we must consider the legal responsibilities and practicalities too. Should a patient die in the presence of a police officer, or within a period of time of being with a police officer, that officer is referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct for investigation.”
It comes after it emerged that the armed forces have just 40 paramedics who would be qualified to work in the NHS. Defence minister Andrew Murrison said that of the 107 paramedics serving in the military, 40 have the qualification requirements set out by the Health and Care Professions Council.
The details, set out in a written answer to Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Daisy Cooper, were disclosed as ministers prepare to deploy troops to cover for striking ambulance staff. It is understood that troops are unlikely to be used to drive ambulances to respond to urgent calls although they could be used for non-urgent cases to free up paramedics.