UK residents told not to get drunk or play sports as ambulance workers strike | Daily News Byte

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Thousands of ambulance workers in the United Kingdom began a one-day strike on Wednesday, with unions and the government exchanging blame for putting lives at risk.

As paramedics, call-handlers and technicians in England and Wales staged their biggest walkout in three decades, the government advised people not to play contact sports, take unnecessary car journeys or get drunk to reduce the risk of needing an ambulance.

Three ambulance unions were on strike for 12 or 24 hours.

They have promised to respond to life-threatening calls, but officials said they cannot guarantee that everyone who needs an ambulance will get one.

“The system will be under very severe pressure today,” Health Secretary Steve Barclay told Sky News.

“We’re asking people to use their common sense in terms of what activities they do, given the pressures on the system.”

Don’t get ‘blind drunk’

Stephen Powis, national medical director of the National Health Service in England, advised people not to get “blind drunk”.

“It’s party season, pre-Christmas, so enjoy yourself but obviously don’t get so drunk that you end up with an unnecessary visit”, he said.

Health care staff and other public sector workers are demanding bigger raises in the face of decades-high inflation, which hit 10.7 percent in November.

Close up of ambulance workers wearing union badges supporting the strike
Opinion polling shows high levels of support for striking workers.(AP: Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative administration has argued that double-digit public sector growth will push inflation higher.

Union leaders accused the government of deliberately prolonging the strike.

“I have never seen such an abdication of leadership as Rishi Sunak and the health secretary,” said Sharon Graham, leader of the United union representing some ambulance staff.

Visiting a picket line in central England, she said “this government can make different choices. They can say ‘actually we prefer to invest (in health care) in people.’ But they’re looking at different options, because they don’t want this to end. I think they want this crisis to stay there.”

Nurses have also held a two-day strike this month, adding pressure to a health system already under pressure from rising demand as pandemic controls are eased, with burnout and staff shortages from Brexit, which has made it harder for Europeans to work in the UK. .

Widespread ramping out of hospitals

Official statistics show that in many areas ambulances are regularly stuck waiting outside hospital emergency departments, sometimes for hours, because there are no beds for patients.

“A lot of times, I’ll sign in on an ambulance and the first job of the day is to go to the hospital, relieve the night or day crew, and then I’ll spend my entire shift outside the hospital,” said Harry Maskers, an emergency medical technician from Cardiff, Wales.

“I think this pattern will continue unless I take action,” he said.

Ambulance crews to go on strike again on December 28.

Railway staff, passport officials and postal workers are also planning walkouts during the Christmas holiday season.

The UK’s worst strike wave in decades is a response to a cost-of-living crisis caused by rising food and energy prices following the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The government is counting on public opinion to turn on the unions as people across the UK face hospital appointments, canceled trains and travel delays during the winter holiday season.

But opinion polls show high levels of support for workers.

Ap

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