999 crews could take strike action

AMBULANCE crews are preparing to take industrial action as a reaction to a shake-up of the current service.

Workers at the North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust voted in favour of taking action over controversial changes being made to the organisation in an accident and emergency review.

The vote comes after trust bosses announced plans to change the way it operates, with a “non-emergency” tier of ambulances introduced to deal with calls which are not classed as 999 emergencies.

Such vehicles, which would not be staffed by a paramedic, would be tasked to deal with hospital and GP transfers.

It is expected that any industrial action by members would fall short of a strike but could see action such as a work to rule and overtime ban.

Unison branch secretary for the NEAS, Joel Byers, said: “The accident and emergency review has been rejected by members and, in an indicative ballot, the majority said they would be prepared to take industrial action over the issue.

“At the moment, members can’t get their shifts finished on time and they’re doing 14-hour working days when they’re only contracted to do 11-hour shifts, so they’re being forced to do compulsory overtime. Members also can’t get their meal breaks on time and they have not had a pay rise in three years. Morale is at an all-time low.”

The North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust declined to comment about the Unison ballot.