Patients are to be told to get themselves to hospital again, as 'limited' ambulances will be available during the upcoming strike days as the row over pay and conditions continues.
Members of Unite, GMB and the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) will stage walkouts on February 6, with the RCN members striking again on February 7, and colleagues from Union also striking on February 10. The public has been urged once again to only call 999 in a 'life threatening emergency', as they were during the previous strikes.
The North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) has announced that ambulances will be 'limited' on Monday (February 6) and Friday (February 10), with fewer staff also working in 999 and 111 call centres, and also for the Patient Transport Service (PTS).
READ MORE Royal Albert Edward Infirmary in Wigan declares critical incident amid 'immense pressure'
Health chiefs have warned that people who are not in severe emergencies will be asked to take alternative transport. Previously, this included getting a taxi or a lift into hospital, to ensure ambulances are available for those in the most desperate need. It is also reported that private providers and the military may be called in for support.
Life threatening emergencies that warrant an ambulance include a cardiac arrest, fits, breathing difficulties, serious head injuries and severe bleeding. People are also urged to only attend A&E in urgent emergencies and to use NHS 111 or their GP in the first instance.
The news comes just a day after the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust announced that Royal Albert Edward Infirmary in Wigan had declared a critical incident amid 'immense pressure' on services, with A&E services 'full'.
Ged Blezard, Director of Operations at North West Ambulance Service, said, “It’s vital we keep the ambulances we do have available for those who really need us. Unfortunately, other patients who require hospital treatment will likely be asked to take alternative transport, and there may be delays.
"Reasons to continue to call 999 include cardiac arrest, loss of consciousness, fits that aren’t stopping, breathing difficulties, severe bleeding, allergic reactions and serious head injuries. For non-urgent concerns, please seek help from NHS 111 online, or contact your GP and pharmacist both will be operating during next week’s strikes.
“Also, please do not repeatedly call 999 asking for updates on where your ambulance is. Only call us back if your condition has worsened or to cancel the ambulance. We need to keep lines free for other emergencies.
“I am pleased to say that the public has listened to the previous messages we have, and call volumes have fallen on days of strike action. I want to say thank you, but I am also keen for this to continue.”
Patients using the Patient Transport Service (PTS) on the 6th and 10th may also be affected. Transport will only remain available for renal, oncology and palliative care appointments.
A spokesperson added: "While we hope for a swift resolution to the dispute, ultimately, this is a matter between the trade unions and the government, and we must respect our colleague’s rights to take industrial action."
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