Call in the army, says NHS boss as ambulance crews set to strike

Call in the army, says NHS boss as ambulance crews set to strike

An NHS chief called on Wednesday for the army to be called in as ambulance crews and nurses are set to strike.

Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive of NHS Providers which represents trusts, warned there would be additional “risks” created by the industrial action.

Hospital bosses would be deploying tried and tested plans to minimise these risks, she added.

On calling in the military to help to ease the pressure on the health service from strike action, Ms Cordery said: “This is something that has been raised over the past couple of days.

“It would be incredibly welcome for the army to play a role.”

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she added: “But I think it’s probably clear that that would be a role at the margins.

“For example, the army did help out during the pandemic but it was on issues such as helping with the vaccination drive.

“We will really welcome their support but that won’t play a central role in keeping the ambulance service going.”

Earlier, Health Secretary Steve Barclay warned that strikes in the NHS were “in nobody’s best interests” as ambulance crews were set to strike within weeks.

The Cabinet minister said he “deeply regretted” that some staff were planning industrial action.

He spoke out as Britain’s biggest union Unison said ambulance workers in England intended to strike before Christmas, with nurses also planning walk-outs.

Mr Barclay said: “I’m hugely grateful for the hard work and dedication of NHS staff and deeply regret some will be taking industrial action – which is in nobody’s best interests as we approach a challenging winter.

“Our priority is keeping patients safe during any strikes and the NHS has tried and tested plans to minimise disruption and ensure emergency services continue to operate.

“My door remains open to discuss with the unions ways we can make the NHS a better place to work.”

Mr Barclay added: “Our economic circumstances mean unions’ demands are not affordable - each additional 1 per cent pay rise for all staff on the Agenda for Change contract would cost around £700 million a year.

“We’ve prioritised the NHS with record funding and accepted the independent pay review body recommendations in full to give over one million NHS workers a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year, with those on the lowest salaries receiving an increase of up to 9.3 per cent.

“This is on top of 3 per cent last year when public sector pay was frozen and wider government support with the cost of living.”

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