Responding to confirmation of strike action by ambulance unions over the Christmas period, Matthew Taylor chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:
“The prospect of industrial action over Christmas is very concerning to health leaders. Staffing urgent and critical care services will continue to be their number one priority and leaders will ensure their local communities understand how their specific services will be affected as this may vary from region to region.
“If ambulance staff, 999 call handlers and nurses walk out on consecutive days over the festive period then undoubtedly this will affect patient care and ambulance response times, despite everything the NHS is doing to prepare for these strikes. Health leaders are also concerned that the prospect of strike action may affect how people decide to engage with the NHS but the advice remains that if it is an emergency, it is vital they should still call 999.
“While leaders are concerned about the impact of the strike days, they understand how their staff are feeling. NHS staff are running on empty and are exhausted after giving their all during the pandemic and have very little in the way of respite for several years now.
“It is time for the government and the trade unions to get round the table, begin negotiations as soon as possible, and be prepared to compromise.”