North East Ambulance Service boss thanks public for support during strike over NHS pay dispute - but concerns remain over further industrial action after Christmas
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Almost 750 paramedics, call handlers and other staff walked out yesterday, Wednesday, December 21, as part of a national dispute over pay.
Bosses had appealed to the public not to call 999 except in genuine emergencies.
‘An incredibly challenging day’
Service chief operating officer Stephen Segasby said yesterday had been ‘an incredibly challenging day’: “We had a significant number of our teams unavailable due to the industrial action. This followed a peak in pressures earlier in the week when we declared a critical incident.
But the public had responded to the call to think carefully before picking up the phone: “We received fewer 999 calls yesterday and deployed all our clinical managers, training team staff, volunteers and private ambulance providers to respond to emergency calls,” said Mr Seagasby.
‘We remain at our highest level of alert status’
“We don’t yet know the full impact of the industrial action on our patients or the wider NHS system, but we thank the public for using 999 wisely, our partners in hospitals and across the NHS for their support to keep our crews on the road and our colleagues for helping to ensure we could reach patients in emergency need of our help.
“We remain at our highest level of alert status because of the continuing unprecedented pressures impacting our ability to respond to patients, although we are no longer declaring a critical incident.
“Many of the actions we put in place at the start of the week will remain in place. This includes advising patients to make their own way to hospital when it is safe to do so.
“As we approach an extended Christmas bank holiday, followed by further industrial action, it’s important we continue to protect our service so we can reach those in greatest need of our help. We as the public continue to only call 999 in a life or limb-threatening emergency.
“Our patient transport service continues to only operate for essential journeys for patients requiring life-sustaining treatment such as dialysis, chemotherapy, oncology and heart care.
"This reduction will run until Thursday, December 29, to allow us to redeploy crews to support lower acuity emergency patients as well as discharges.”