YORK Outer MP Julian Sturdy says he has ‘great sympathy’ with ambulance workers who went on strike across Yorkshire on Monday – but has warned that simply spending more money on the NHS is not the solution.
It was 'incorrect' to say the NHS was underfunded, Mr Sturdy insisted - stressing that there needed to be 'structural change'.
Thousands of ambulance workers – including some in York who are members of Unison - went on strike across England and Wales on Monday, though they remained ready to respond to life-threatening emergencies.
Paramedics on the picket line in York talked about their fears for the future of the NHS – and their anguish at being unable to respond more quickly to 999 calls.
Rob Powell, a paramedic for 22 years, said: “It has never been like this. We’re not out there doing our jobs because we are sitting in corridors for shifts at a time, 12 hours at a time.
“If you could come in there (York Hospital) you would see 15 ambulances at a time waiting in there with patients, and it’s just getting worse and worse.”
His colleague Ed Wood added: “We don’t want to go on strike. We just feel we have been backed into a corner.”
In comments made late on the day of the strike, Mr Sturdy said he welcomed a statement from Health Secretary Steve Barclay that talks with the unions were constructive and added: “I sincerely hope an agreement can be found soon.”
He said he had ‘great sympathy’ with ambulance teams who ‘quite literally make the difference between life and death when responding to 999 calls’.
But he added: “While the NHS is undoubtedly under great pressure…it is incorrect to say the NHS is underfunded
“Across the last decade, the NHS has seen real terms funding increases every single year and will account for 40 per cent of day-to-day Government spending by 2025.
“Even the Opposition has admitted that the solution isn't simply spending more money and that structural changes are needed to make the NHS fit for purpose with a larger as well as older population."
As reported in The Press last week, the winter of discontent in the health service is far from over.
Thousands of nurses and ambulance workers are due to stage walkouts on February 6 if no deal has been reached by then, making it potentially the biggest walkout the NHS has ever experienced.
The signs are that most people in York support the strikers.
Press readers posted a string of supportive comments on Facebook on Monday, the day of the ambulance strike.
“Fully support your legitimate strike action in defence of our NHS,” said John Woods.
“They (ambulance workers) deserve better pay, better support, better respect and admiration for what they do,” added Heidi Marie Sellers.
Julia Wait pointed out that the dispute was not just about getting more money – but about patient safety. “Patients are being let down and privatisation is creeping in,” she posted.
Not everyone supported striking NHS staff, however.
“I have been retired a fair while now but I read nurses are on £34,000 a year, that's over £600 a week! Is that a bad wage?” asked Keith Roworth.