NHS leaders know that the decision to strike is not one that staff who were balloted will have taken lightly. This is about pay but also about working conditions - many NHS staff no longer feel able to provide the level of care that their patients need and deserve in the context of more than 130,000 vacancies across the NHS, the elective backlog growing to over 7 million people and urgent and emergency care, mental health, community and primary care services all under extreme pressure.
24 hours before the first ambulance strike (on 21st December 2022), the NHS Confederation and NHS Providers wrote to the Prime Minister on behalf of all NHS leaders in England to share their deep worry about the level of harm and patient risk that could be posed by the action - specifically about the risk of category 2 call-outs not being sufficiently staffed.
The letter calls on the PM to to negotiate on the substantive issue of pay awards, reiterating the message to trade unions that a national resolution is needed as swiftly as possible.
The letter pledged that NHS leaders and their teams would continue to do all they can to mitigate the risks to patient harms.