Ambulance strike: Warning from North East Ambulance Service as Unison and Unite members prepare to walk out

Ambulance chiefs are urging people in Sunderland to only dial 999 for life-threatening conditions during a strike on Monday, January 23.

Members of two unions – Unison and Unite – are taking part in industrial action on Monday in a national dispute over the pay award for 2022/2023.

Stephen Segasby, Chief operating officer at the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS), said the industrial action brings “incredible challenges” for the service.

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He said: “The public have really supported us with fewer 999 calls, which helped us to prioritise our resources to those most in need. But with fewer people available to respond to non-emergency incidents, we want to warn people once again on how best to use our service and what to expect from us during the period of action.

Ambulance service staff will take industrial action on Monday, January 23.

“We ask that the public continue to consider which is the best service for their needs and only call 999 in a life or limb-threatening emergency.”

NEAS says it has contingencies in place and has agreed exemptions to allow the service to respond to high acuity life-threatening cases during the strike. The service admits, however, that it will not be able to respond to all calls of a serious nature and there will be significant delays for patients who have a less serious illness or injury.

Mr Segasby added: “We will focus our resources on those who are most in need, but there will be fewer ambulances responding during the strike and this will only be where there is an immediate risk to life. This means that less serious calls will not receive a response for the duration of the strike action and some patients will be asked to make their own way to hospital, where it is safe for them to do so.”

He added: “Patients waiting for an ambulance should only call back if your symptoms worsen so that our health advisors are available to take new emergency calls; or to call back to cancel an ambulance if alternative transport has been arranged.

During the period of industrial action, GP surgeries, pharmacies and urgent treatment centres will still be open and www.111.nhs.uk will be available.