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Health workers must be first in line for pay rise but their politicised unions should not be putting lives at risk

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BRITAIN rightly admires its healthcare workers, not just for their uncomplaining work during the pandemic but for the efforts they put in week in, week out.
During Covid, emergency ward staff continued to do their job even when not provided with proper protective clothing — and when the rest of us were safely cocooned at home.
Health workers' decision to call strikes at a time when the NHS is straining under unusually high demand is a disgraceful move3Health workers’ decision to call strikes at a time when the NHS is straining under unusually high demand is a disgraceful moveCredit: Louis WoodWhile nurses should be the first in line for a pay rise - the walkouts will almost certainly end up costing lives3While nurses should be the first in line for a pay rise – the walkouts will almost certainly end up costing livesCredit: PAAnd of course, it is true that praising them is not enough. As some of the placards being waved by striking nurses make clear, clapping healthcare workers won’t help heat their homes or put food on their table.
When Britain is out of its long crisis in public finances, which started under Gordon Brown and was greatly exacerbated by the pandemic, nurses should be the first in line for a pay rise.
As will shortly become clear, however, the affection for nurses and other medical workers does not extend to the leaders of healthcare unions.
On the contrary, their decision to call strikes at a time when the NHS is straining under unusually high demand is a disgraceful, politicised move which will almost certainly end up costing lives.
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Today’s strike by ambulance staff promises to be especially dangerous. At least during last week’s nurses’ strike, emergency care continued. That will not be the case today.
Unions have agreed only to respond to the most serious category 1 calls, where there is an imminent danger of death.
If your 999 call is assessed as a category 2 emergency, you will be very lucky to get an ambulance today, and possibly not tomorrow, as there will be a large backlog.
Category 2 emergencies include very serious conditions such as strokes or chest pain, where delays in treatment can have very serious consequences.

Vital equipment
Even Category 3 emergencies can be extremely serious: They include, for example, complications suffered by diabetics.
Unless the unions change their tack, it is very unlikely anyone reporting these very serious conditions will get help from an ambulance or paramedic crew today, and they may struggle for the rest of the week.
The idea that we can take stroke victims to A&E departments by car instead of waiting for an ambulance — as health minister Will Quince has advised — misses the point.
Ambulances aren’t just minibuses with stretchers, they carry paramedics and vital equipment for keeping patients alive.
Worse, this strike comes at a time when the ambulance service is already flagging. In October, the average waiting time for an ambulance in a category 2 emergency was more than an hour, twice as long as it had been even at the height of the pandemic in January 2021.
While the nationwide figure improved slightly in November, in some parts of the country seriously ill people are still waiting well over an hour.
The NHS has become overloaded as a delayed reaction to the pandemic, when many people had treatments delayed or put off seeking a consultation for worrying symptoms.
The result is a large backlog which has been costing lives all year — death rates across Britain have been at an elevated rate since the spring.
Throw in an ambulance workers’ and nurses’ strike and the situation is threatening to get a lot worse.
When unnecessary deaths do occur — and it is almost certain they will — Unison, GMB and Unite might find the public blame them.
The unions’ attitude contrasts somewhat badly with that of the Armed Forces who, once again, have been drafted in to prop up flagging public services.
The Army is supposed to be there to defend us against aggression from foreign powers, but instead it seems to have become an all-purpose back-up for failing parts of the public sector.
God help us if we really are invaded at a time when soldiers are otherwise engaged driving ambulances, Covid-testing, bailing out flooded homes and all the other things they are now expected to do.
One thing we can count on soldiers not doing, however, is going out on strike. They are forbidden from doing so and almost certainly wouldn’t want to strike even if they could.
Why the Government hasn’t yet fulfilled its manifesto promise to oblige public sector staff to maintain minimum service levels on strike days, I simply don’t understand.
Misjudged strikes
We can all empathise with workers who feel their pay is not keeping up with inflation. Most workers, in the public and private sectors, will not be seeing their pay rise in line with inflation this year.
But if they were wise, the public sector unions would wait until the economic situation improves — and the post-pandemic NHS crisis has subsided — before pressing their case.
Unfortunately, however, wisdom is not much in evidence in the public sector unions. They seem to have made the decision to try to provoke a general strike in the hope of bringing down the Government.

It didn’t work for Arthur Scargill in the 1984 miners’ strike and it won’t work for the healthcare unions.
All they will achieve in this winter’s misjudged strikes is to cause deaths which need not have occurred.
One thing we can count on soldiers not doing, however, is going out on strike, writes Ross Clark3One thing we can count on soldiers not doing, however, is going out on strike, writes Ross ClarkCredit: Matthew Lloyd – The Times
Story Credit: thesun.co.uk

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