“Deep Worry” for Patient Safety as Paramedic Strikes Begin

NHS leaders warn of increasing risk to patients

More than 10,000 paramedics across England and Wales will strike today (21 December) in a bid to secure better pay and working conditions after talks with the health secretary failed to provide a solution.

The strike comes as ambulance services are already under an immense amount of pressure - which is a significant cause for concern for NHS leaders.

In a letter to the prime minister and health secretary, leaders of the NHS Confederation and NHS Providers stressed the importance of an “agreed solution” to secure patient safety.

NHS leaders also highlighted that the action being taken by paramedics is about providing a safe and accessible service for patients. They said that many paramedics are joining the strikes because “they no longer feel able to provide the level of care that their patients need and deserve”.

Eight ambulance trusts declare critical incidents

In the lead up to today’s strike, eight of England’s 10 ambulance trusts have declared critical incidents. This means that because of the amount of sustained pressure on them, their resources will now be focused on the patients with the greatest need.

The number of critical incidents announced this week highlights the extent of the demand paramedics have had to shoulder over the last few years.

South Western Ambulance Service said that even at the busiest times pre-pandemic, they received half the number of 999 calls that they do now. This sharp increase has put an extreme level of strain on paramedic staff which could ultimately put patients in greater danger.

Ambulance delays a long-standing issue

Ambulance delays are not a new issue for the NHS. In fact, ambulance handover times are one of the main areas for improvement addressed by the NHS Long Term Plan.

A handover refers to the process of transferring care from paramedics to hospital staff when an ambulance arrives at A&E. The time it takes to carry out a handover is crucial as every second counts when a patient is seriously ill.

But over the last few years, handover delays have become more common. And there have been cases where patients have been waiting in the back of an ambulance for hours before being admitted to hospital.

London Ambulance Service’s chief paramedic told MPs this week that paramedics “can spend a whole shift outside hospital waiting to hand over a patient”. This can dramatically reduce the number of ambulances available for 999 callouts.

Not being able to access medical care when you need it can be incredibly frightening. If your condition has worsened as a result of poor treatment, you could be entitled to medical negligence compensation.

Get in touch with our claims advisors to find out more.

 

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