Some ambulance staff in the North West will not respond to “potentially life threatening” calls during strike action next week, the region’s ambulance trust has claimed.

The union in question, Unison, has refuted the claim.

NHS staff across England are planning to take strike action on Monday between 7am and 11am, followed by an overtime ban throughout the rest of the week, over pay.

North West Ambulance Service Trust said in a briefing on the action that representatives of the Unison union had confirmed that, during the action, its members at the trust would respond to “Red 1”, the most serious and life threatening cases, but not to “Red 2”.

The briefing, sent to stakeholders today and seen by HSJ, said “Red 2” cases “have the potential to become life threatening if ambulance crews don’t reach patients in good time”.

Red 2 calls account for a high proportion of calls, according to the NWAS briefing. It said on Monday this week in the same time period the trust received 263 Red 2 calls, and only 20 Red 1 cases.

The NWAS briefing said it believed Unison’s stance “will be putting patients at risk”.

It told stakeholders it would have a “vastly reduced workforce” on Monday morning and that “all avenues were being explored” to increase resources.

In addition to Unison, NWAS also recognises GMB and Unite. About 65 per cent of trust staff belong to one of the three unions, with Unison having the largest membership. GMB and Unite are yet to confirm what action they plan to take in the North West.

A Unison spokesman told HSJ the NWAS briefing did not correctly reflect its position.

He said: “We are still in discussions with NWAS and our current position is that we have offered the same level of cover for Red 1 and Red 2 cases as being offered across the country and by other ambulance staff trade unions.

“NHS staff, including ambulance workers do not want to strike but the secretary of state’s total disregard of the pay review body recommendations and the erosion of the value of health [staff] pay is unacceptable and will have a serious impact on the future of the NHS.”


UPDATE 8 October, 16.58: The piece has been updated to reflect comment received from Unison after initial publication.