UK Ministers and unions have clashed over who will be blamed for any deaths during ambulance strikes. Citizens are now chaotic about their treatment amid UK ambulance strike accompanied with political instability.
Unions said the government was at fault for refusing to negotiate pay, but Health Secretary Steve Barclay blamed the opposition for striking when the NHS was under considerable pressure.
He said the union “made a conscious decision to harm patients”, sparking an angry backlash.
Paramedics are among the interventions in England and Wales on Wednesday.
Dispatch and support staff who are members of Unison, GMB and Unite are also involved.
Unions representing emergency workers want a pay rise to keep up with the rising cost of living. They did not set a specific number, but say any offer must be high enough to prevent a hiring crisis.
But ministers say they will not discuss pay because they have met independent pay recommendations.
NHS bosses have warned that patient safety cannot be guaranteed during strike action, although unions say ambulances will still respond to life-threatening calls.
They also argue that patients are already at risk due to waiting times, exacerbated by staff shortages.
In an article for the Daily Telegraph, Mr Barclay accused paramedic unions of choosing to harm patients and making contingency planning difficult.
He said the union had refused to work with the government nationally on how they would cover emergency calls during strike action.
Unison said it was “absolutely shocked” by the comments, while the GMB union said they were “offensive”.
Mr Barclay later told BBC Breakfast outpatient unions had decided to strike at a time “when the system is already facing very significant pressure” from increased cases of flu and Covid.
Asked who would be responsible for any deaths during the industrial action, he said: “It is the unions who are taking this action at a point of maximum pressure on the NHS.”
But the unions rejected Mr Barclay’s claims.
Sharon Graham, head of Unite, said the blame for the strikes “lay squarely at the government’s door”.
She accused Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of the worst “abdication of leadership” in 25 years when he refused to negotiate on pay.
Christina McAnea, head of Unison, said the health minister “never specifically asked Unison for a national contingency agreement” and acknowledged that local unions had negotiated “detailed, appropriate plans for their areas”.
She previously said any deaths during the strikes would be “absolutely” the fault of the government, which has refused to open negotiations.
Prof Sir Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, said people should be “sensible” on a “very difficult day” for the health service.
He urged people not to get “blind drunk” at Christmas parties and end up in A&E unnecessarily.
Dr Adrian Boyle, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said the strike action had “come at the worst possible time” as the NHS is already “under immense pressure”.
He said Tuesday’s nursing strike had reduced patient discharges from hospital, leaving them even “fuller” with less space for ambulances to offload.
Ambulance response times for emergency category two 999 calls, such as strokes and heart attacks, are already twice as long as two years ago.
Some picket lines were less busy than Tuesday’s nursing strikes, with unions agreeing that striking workers can leave to respond to the most serious, life-threatening calls if necessary.