Ambulance workers will stage a fresh strike on Monday in the escalating dispute over pay and staffing.
It comes after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt was told he can halt industrial action and begin solving the staffing emergency if he comes up with new money to pay health workers “fairly”.
But Unison warned Mr Hunt that if he continues to resist appeals to release extra cash and kickstart talks with unions to end the strikes, the NHS dispute could run for many months
Thousands of members of Unison, Unite and the GMB will walk out across England and Wales on Monday.
Up to 15,000 Unison ambulance workers will strike for the third time in five weeks and will be joined by 5,000 of their NHS colleagues at two hospital trusts in Liverpool.
From 7am, paramedics, emergency care assistants, ambulance technicians, other 999 crew members and control room staff across five services in England – London, Yorkshire, the North West, North East and South West – will join picket lines.
Porters, cleaners, nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants, theatre staff and other NHS workers at the Liverpool University Hospitals Trust and the city’s Heart and Chest Hospital will also be out on strike.
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The solution to the growing NHS crisis is staring the Government in the face. It’s simple, all the Chancellor needs to do is find the money to pay health workers fairly.
“The public wants the Government to end the dispute, so do NHS staff, but most ministers look like they’d rather dig in and do nothing instead of boost pay and help turn the ailing NHS around.
“Higher wages would stop experienced employees leaving for better paid jobs and encourage more people to come and work in the NHS.
“With more staff, ambulance response times would improve, and patient waits for treatment shorten. Everyone would be a winner.
“It’s strange that it’s the Chancellor blocking progress. Jeremy Hunt knows the NHS better than anyone in the Cabinet.
“As health secretary, he negotiated the wage deal to end the 2015 NHS strike and pushed for fair pay when Health Select Committee chair. But as Chancellor he’s chosen to forget all that.
“Jeremy Hunt knows improved wages are critical to solving the NHS staffing emergency. He must come out of hiding and unlock the funding to end the strikes. Then the focus can be on nursing the NHS back to good health.”
Almost 1,000 ambulance workers across the West Midlands in the GMB union will strike, including paramedics and emergency care assistants.
Stuart Richards, GMB senior organiser, said: “West Midlands ambulance workers’ message is clear – the Government must talk pay now.
“While the NHS crumbles around our ears – despite ambulance workers’ desperate efforts – we have been waiting two weeks today for another meeting with ministers.
“Instead of working to solve the problems, this Government has demonised the ambulance workers who provided life and limb cover on strike days.
“The only way to solve this dispute is a proper pay offer. We are waiting.”
Further strikes are planned in the coming weeks by nurses and other NHS workers.
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “It is hugely disappointing some ambulance workers are continuing to take industrial action. While we have contingency plans in place to mitigate risks to patient safety, there will inevitably be further disruption.
“It is important people continue coming forward for treatment – call 999 in life-threatening emergencies and use NHS 111 online, local pharmacies and GP services for non-life-threatening care.
“I have had constructive talks with unions about this coming year’s pay process for 2023/24, and am keen to continue talking about what is affordable and fair.”