Soldiers and police are to drive ambulances in London when paramedics take strike action on Monday [November 24].
London Ambulance Service (LAS) expects to be under “significant pressure” when staff take part in the latest phase of a national protest over NHS pay. Ambulance chiefs today pleaded with people only to call 999 with a “life-threatening emergency”.
The Ministry of Defence is providing 120 military personnel, while the Met police is providing 150 officers. A further 12 soldiers and 40 police will be held in reserve and can be called upon if required.
The walk-out, involving GMB and Unison members, will last from 7am to 11am but the effect is expected to last throughout Monday – typically the busiest day of the week for the London Ambulance Service.
Industrial action last month saw 77 per cent of ambulance crews and 14 per cent of control room staff take part. Similar levels are expected on Monday.
The soldiers and police will operate in pairs, with one driving the ambulance and the other providing navigation. A paramedic, or doctor or nurse volunteering from elsewhere in the NHS, will be carried in the back to treat patients. Ambulances driven by police will be able to go through red lights, but not those driven by soldiers.
Ambulance managers with clinical training will be deployed on the front-line. Private ambulances will also be used to transfer patients to hospital.
Jason Killens, LAS director of operations, said: “Only people in a life-threatening emergency will get an ambulance response between 7am and 11am on Monday.
“People with injuries such as minor broken bones, women in routine labour, some patients with breathing difficulties or those involved in minor road traffic accidents will be given clinical advice, provided with alternative transport or told to make their own way to hospital.”
He asked Londoners who were not seriously ill to call the NHS 111 helpline for medical advice. “We have plans in place for our most seriously ill and injured patients,” he said.
“However, people who need an ambulance response, but are not in a life-threatening situation, should expect to wait longer or may not get an ambulance at all,” he said.
“We’d like to thank Londoners for their support in helping us get to the most seriously ill and injured patients.”