Thousands of ambulance workers in Britain began a 24-hour strike on Wednesday as unions and governments accused each other of endangering lives.
The government advised people to avoid contact sports, unnecessary driving or drinking to reduce the risk of needing assistance during the biggest strike in three decades by paramedics, telephone operators and ambulance technicians in England Y Welsh.
Unions promised to respond to calls where lives were in danger, but authorities said they could not guarantee that everyone who needed an ambulance would be able to get one.
“The system is going to be under enormous pressure today,” Health Secretary Steve Barclay told skynews. “We tell the population to use your common sense in terms of what activities you do, be aware of those pressures on the system.”
Stephen Powis, national medical director of health for the National Health Service in England, advised people not to end up “wasted drunk”.
“It’s the holiday season, before Christmas, so enjoy yourself but obviously don’t drink so much that you end up with an unnecessary visit” to a hospital emergency room, he said.
Health personnel and other public sector workers have called for big wage increases amid inflation that has broken multi-decade records and stood at 10.7% in November.
The Conservative Prime Minister’s government Rishi Sunak He claims that raising public sector wages by double digits would further boost inflation.
Union leaders accused the government of deliberately prolonging the strikes.
“I’ve never seen such an abandonment of leadership as I’ve seen from Rishi Sunak and the health secretary,” said Sharon Graham, leader of the Unite union that represents some ambulance workers.
“This government can make different decisions,” he said during a visit to a picket line in central England. “They can say ‘we actually chose to invest in the (health service) people. But they look at other options, because they don’t want this to end. I think they want this crisis to exist.”
Nurses have also held two days of strike action this month, adding to the pressure on a healthcare system already overburdened by rising demand following the lifting of pandemic restrictions, as well as understaffing due to burnout and Brexit. , which has made it more difficult for Europeans to work in Britain.
Official statistics indicated that in many places, ambulances are blocked in front of hospital emergency units, sometimes for hours, because there are no beds for patients.
The ambulance workers were scheduled to strike again on December 28. Railway workers, passport agents and postal workers also called walkouts over Christmas. Britain’s most intense strike wave in decades was responding to a cost-of-living crisis fueled by skyrocketing food and energy prices following the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The government was betting public opinion would turn against the strikers as people across the country faced hospital appointment postponements, train cancellations and travel delays over Christmas. However, opinion polls showed a high level of support for the workers.