Horror of paramedics arriving too late to save patients driving 999 strikes, says medic

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The “relentless” nature of being a paramedic and the horror of arriving on the scene too late to save lives has been blamed on a lack of funding. Paramedic Dave Robb told the Mirror: “Then when we get on the scene and somebody’s life has been lost, we’ve got to try to explain that to the relatives and it’s really difficult because they become frustrated, they start taking it out on us.” It comes as tens of thousands of ambulance workers are holding their first national strike in over 30 years over a pay dispute today. Chief executive of the NHS confederation Matthew Taylor has warned they “cannot guarentee patient safety”. 

Mr Robb, who has been a paramedic in the North West for 36 years said staff are quitting because they can “not do it any longer”.

He said: “We have got far too much demand on the ambulance service and due to insufficient funding we cannot provide adequate cover any more.

“We’ve got colleagues in control who have got job after job after job stacked up, with no vehicles to send.”

The NHS is always under pressure this time of year but Mr Robb said they don’t have winter pressure, they have “pressures every single day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year”.

He added that the strike action is being taken with a “heavy heart” and “isn’t something we do lightly”.

The public have been warned to take extra care today with the NHS England medical director saying: “Don’t get so drunk that you end up with an unnecessary visit to A&E”.

About 750 armed forces staff are being drafted in to help in England, and some will drive patients with less urgent conditions to and from hospital.

It comes after Health Secretary Steve Barclay said unions “have made a conscious choice to inflict harm on patients”, a move the GMB has called “insulting” to NHS staff.

READ MORE: Ambulance strikes blasted as ‘conscious choice to inflict harm’

Mr Barclay claims the three unions striking today have “refused” to work with the government at the national level.

Speaking this morning he said: “That makes it very difficult for NHS colleagues to plan the contingency measures – working with the military, working with community services, working with first responders – in terms of how we have contingency measures alongside the strikes.”

Responding to the health secretary’s comments, Rachel Harrison, national secretary of the GMB union said any deaths as a result of the strikes will “absolutely” be the government’s fault.

She added: “It’s not me, it’s not the GMB, and it’s not the other health unions that are refusing to talk about pay, it’s this government,” she says. “We are here, ready to talk… our door really is truly open and it’s within [the government’s] power to stop this dispute at any time.”

In a last-minute intervention Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation wrote to Rishi Sunak to warn him the country has entered “dangerous territory” uring him to end the pay dispite.

Mr Taylor admitted there is a “deep worry” in the NHS about the “level of harm and risk that could occur to patients” during the strikes.

All category one and two calls, the most life-threatening such as cardiac arrest, will still be dealt with.

NHS staff say they are struggling with the rising cost of living whilst the government argues that the NHS pay award, an average rise of 4.75 percent, meet the requirements of the recommendations from the independent NHS Pay Review Body.