Ambulance personnel in the union Unite are taking Industrial Action between 3pm and 8pm today, 17 February.
It is the second period of strike action in the past four days.
Unite’s 375 members are striking over the imminent introduction of elongated shift patterns that could mean working 10 hours without a meal break.
Unite said that the trust’s proposals would impact on patient safety as ambulance staff could go more than 10 hours without a meal break, as such breaks would be at the whim of managers. The union wants a protected meal break of 30 minutes after six hours.
The union has also expressed concern at the continued and increasing use of private ambulance firms to ‘plug the gaps’ in NHS 999 responses which was particularly noticeable in December and over the Christmas and New Year period.
Ian Brandwood, Executive Director of HR at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: “On Friday 14 February 47 individuals from across Yorkshire and the Humber who were rostered to be on duty took part in the industrial action over the five-hour period from 3pm until 8pm (this equated to about 1% of our total workforce and only 12% of Unite the Union members). Our plans to maintain high standards of patient care and minimise any impact of the strike were effective.
“It is very clear that there is minimal support from Unite the Union’s members for strike action and we remain concerned that the union continues to mislead both its members and the public with inaccurate and potentially defamatory claims about the terms and conditions of the new rotas.
Mr Brandwood said documentation clearlty stated: ‘The new agreed rest break window for a 10-hour shift starts at 3½ hours and ends at seven hours, and for a 12-hour shift starts at four hours and ends at eight hours.’ ‘Under the new model the rest break will be protected and held at an individual’s base station.’ It is, therefore, difficult to understand why Mr Cunliffe persists in stating that staff will not get rest breaks. Staff welfare is a high priority for us and the changes very much support the provision of rest breaks.
“We are fully assured that we have followed all due process, including adherence to Care Quality Commission standards, and undertaken extensive consultation with staff and UNISON on the changes we are making. However, our primary focus remains firmly on safeguarding patient care and we are committed to minimising the level of disruption to our services.
“Industrial action is certainly not in the best interests of patients and, as we prepare for the next period of industrial action on Monday 17 February (3pm - 8pm), we would like to reassure members of the public that our contingency plans are robust. We remain committed to providing a safe, responsive and high-quality emergency service.
“We would like to remind members of the public to use our services wisely and ask that people only call 999 for an ambulance when someone has a life-threatening or serious illness or injury. Anyone requiring advice or treatment for a non-emergency situation or minor ailment should consider options such as self-care, consulting a local pharmacist, contacting the NHS 111 urgent care service or visiting a walk-in centre or minor injuries unit.”
Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe said: ““We would welcome an independent enquiry by the CQC to determine whether it is Unite or the trust’s executives who are misleading the public about the facts in this dispute, including the reason for Unite’s derecognition; patient safety; and whether the trust’s plan is focused on patient care or is just a five-year £46 million cost cutting exercise.
“It is also very significant that Unison members have also rejected the trust proposals by a 70 per cent to 30 per cent majority.
“We are continuing to work with community representatives, commissioners and MPs throughout the region to reach a fair settlement for the Yorkshire public and our dedicated members.
“We understand that there will be public concern about this action and would want to assure them that this is a last resort as a result of the trust’s executives refusal to negotiate with Unite.”