People with chest pains should call 999 on Wednesday despite the ambulance strike in England and Wales, Health Secretary Will Quince has said, but he admitted that people experiencing such pains were waiting an average of 47 minutes.
Those with chest pains or a bad fall — Category 2 cases — waited more than an hour in some areas, Quince admitted. But he insisted life-threatening emergencies would be covered and the most critical Category 1 calls answered in under 10 minutes.
“If you have chest pains, call 999 and the expectation is, and I’ve been very clear with you, I don’t think any paramedics, paramedics, anyone working in the NHS, whether they’re on a picket line or not, that wouldn’t answer on a 999 call where someone has chest pains and there is a threat of a heart attack,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Tuesday.
Ambulance workers will stage another strike on Wednesday, involving up to 10,000 staff. Union officials have suggested that paramedics, call handlers and emergency room assistants would walk off the lines for the most serious cases. Those who are members of GMB will then strike again on 28 December.
Meanwhile, nurses are on strike for a second day on Tuesday. The head of the Royal College of Nursing, Pat Cullen, said there was no path to negotiations with the Government to end industrial action because ministers would not discuss pay.
“Unfortunately, more nursing staff will be involved in future strikes, and more hospitals will also be included in future industrial action,” she said.
“These decisions have not been made yet, but what I will say is in any future action, safety will be the first consideration for us as a Royal College of Nursing and for all the nursing staff I represent.”
Up to 100,000 members of the RCN will take part in the strike after it elected its members in October. It has said low pay is the cause of chronic understaffing which puts patients at risk and overworked NHS staff.