U.K. ambulance workers were striking on Wednesday over pay disputes.
By Emma Ogao
LONDON — Brits have been urged to “drink responsibly” and avoid “risky activities” during pre-Christmas celebrations to avoid trips to the emergency room as thousands of ambulance workers take strike action over pay disputes.
“There is no doubt that the NHS is facing extreme pressure and industrial action will add to the already record demand we are seeing on urgent and emergency care,” said NHS Medical Director Professor Stephen Powis. He added that the public can help in several ways including “drinking responsibly” to ease strain on emergency services.
Speaking on BBC radio, Powis said, “Don’t get so drunk that you end up with an unnecessary visit to A&E.”
Over 10,000 emergency workers and NHS staff across England and Wales are expected to partake in two days of industrial action over an ongoing pay dispute. The strikes are part of Britain’s most significant wave of industrial action in a generation, with mail workers, rail workers, barristers and other public service workers all holding walkouts this winter demanding pay rises in line with inflation.
“On health grounds alone, it is clear we have entered dangerous territory,” says Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation. “There is now deep worry among NHS leaders about the level of harm and risk that could occur to patients tomorrow and beyond.”
Nurses in Scotland also said on Wednesday that they will announce dates for strike action in 2023 after 82% of members of the Royal College of Nursing “overwhelmingly” rejected the Scottish government’s pay offer.
“Critical incidents” have been declared by ambulance and hospital trusts across the country, allowing the services to prioritize those who are most in need.
“Our service is under unprecedented pressure,” said Stephen Segasby, Chief operating officer of the North East Ambulance Service — one of the eight NHS trusts declaring critical incidents. “Declaring a critical incident means we can focus our resources on those patients most in need and communicates the pressures we are under.”
Seagsby added that the trust has been operating at its “highest level of operational alert” since the start of the month.
Speaking at Liaison Committee on Tuesday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak defended NHS’s pay offer, saying “I’ve always been very clear in expressing my gratitude and admiration for our NHS workers and indeed our public sector workers across the board”
“I’ve acknowledged that everyone finds it challenging given the current state of inflation. And the best way for us to help them and everyone else in the nation is for us to take control and lower inflation as soon as we can.
British citizens have also been urged to use caution when engaging in “risky activities,” such as cycling and contact sports: “If there is activity people are undertaking tomorrow, whether it’s contact sport for example or other things they may want to review that,” said Health Minister Will Quince speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live.
In order to guarantee that patients who require care the most can access it, the NHS has also urged the public to use services “wisely” at this time.
Without a doubt, the NHS is under tremendous strain, and strike action will only increase the already record-breaking demand for urgent and emergency care, according to Powis.
“NHS staff have worked hard to minimize disruption,” he continued, “but it is inevitable that we will see an impact on services as with any industrial action. It is vital that you continue to come forward if you need life-saving care.”