Sunak Blasted For 'Demonising' Ambulance Workers To Justify Strike Crackdown

Ambulance paramedics on the picket line.
Ambulance paramedics on the picket line.

Ambulance paramedics on the picket line.

Angry ambulance workers have accused ministers of “demonising” emergency service staff as the government attempts to bring in new anti-strike laws.

In a letter to the prime minister, paramedics and other members of the GMB union said they were “appalled” at some of the statements from Rishi Sunak’s government in recent days and that “targeting ambulance workers for a deliberate attack is a disgrace”.

It reads: “We feel utterly betrayed by the way your government has singled out ambulance workers as part of a crude attempt to remove our right to strike.

“You and your ministers should be ashamed of the way you have tried to paint us as uncaring about safety standards – nothing could be further from the truth.”

Another ambulance staff strike is due to be held on January 23, following a walkout on Wednesday of 25,000 workers, and more action is being planned.

Business secretary Grant Shapps has claimed ambulance workers are putting lives at risk by not agreeing to so-called minimum service levels during recent industrial action.

The letter went on to say it was not the fault of ambulance workers that the service is in crisis, and that delays were happening months before the strikes.

It added: “NHS workers like us got the country through the pandemic and we’re doing our very best to deal with the crisis in our NHS now, something your government has presided over and should take responsibility for.

“We want a constructive relationship with government to talk about pay and seriously improve conditions throughout the ambulance service.

“But you are making us and our ambulance colleagues feel demonised. Please talk to us and our unions. And stop attacking us now.”

New anti-strike laws are designed to make industrial action illegal if trade unions refuse to provide the minimum level of service.

It is a response to the crippling wave of strikes that is gripping the UK, as nurses, ambulance staff and rail workers all walk out in a dispute with the government over pay and working conditions.

New figures show that ambulance response times and A&E waits are now the worst on record.

The average response time in December for category one calls — defined as life-threatening illness or injuries such as cardiac or respiratory arrest — was 10 minutes and 57 seconds.

It is set against a target of seven minutes and marks the worst performance on record.

For category two calls, which can include heart attacks and strokes, average response times reached an hour and a half — more than 50% higher than the previous record high.

The figures for NHS England also show that a record 54,532 people waited more than 12 hours waiting to be admitted to A&E after being referred.

Meanwhile, the proportion of patients seen within the target timeframe of four hours fell to a record low of 65% in December.

The figures lay bare the acute pressures the NHS is facing this winter, as the health service deals with a surge in flu cases and a near record number of 111 calls.