Rolling report: #PutNHSpayright

Check back throughout the day to see what’s happening around the regions as strikes begin across the ambulance service in England and at two Liverpool hospitals

Christina McAnea at the Waterloo ambulance station, with pickets

22:00pm And so, as we wind down our rolling coverage, here’s a fabulous chat between UNISON head of health Sara Gorton and Maeve in the North West.

21:15pm And here we are again – back at Waterloo in London. UNISON members still going strong!

21:00pm UNISON rep Wendy Smith gives a picket line interview from Hull, describing the support that striking workers have received from the public. Watch the video here.

Screengrab from a video of a member on a picket line in Hull talking of the generosity of the public

19:30pm An eviscerating comment from James O’Brien on LBC today.

“These people hate the very notion of a transaction taking place without any money being sliced off the top for investors and shareholders.

“It offends their very core. I don’t know why, I never will.

“They look at allotments and wonder why they’re no luxury flats, because allotments are for little people.

Catch the whole segment here

18:05pm More is flowing in and here we have just a taste of today’s activity from the Northern region.

A picket today in Gateshead

On a bright winter morning, pickets gathered in Gateshead

Northern regional secretary Clare Williams on the picket line

Northern regional secretary Clare Williams on a picket line today

Ashington picket

The picket at Ashington on a glorious winter day

Members on a picket line in the North East joined by MP Andy MacDonald

Northern members were joined by Labour MP Andy MacDonald today on the picket line.

And here’s a brief piece from the BBC showing pickets in the region applaud colleagues setting off in an emergency.

17:35pm Social media has seen plenty of comments from beyond UNISON itself. Here is a small sample.

Best for Britain tweeted the following facts:Screengrab of Best for Britain tweet

Dr Duncan Robertson, a policy and strategy analytics academic at Loughborough University and a fellow at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, shared graphs showing that ambulance performance charts revealed that problems had started before the pandemic and therefore well before this industrial action.

Screengrab of stats about NHS funding

Meanwhile, Katie Clark, the deputy editor at the Bournemouth Daily Echo, noted that: Screengrab of a Katie Clark tweet

It’s a sign of serious anger when a journalist uses capital letters and full stops like this!

Paul Bernal, professor of IT law at the University of East Anglia law school made the following comment:

Screen grab of Twitter comment from Prif Paul Bernal

UNISON members are not alone in this. They have supporters out there who understand why this is happening and are intent on spreading the word – and the facts.

17:20pm Here’s some wider coverage of the strike from Twitter today. First, two great tweets and pics from Gateshead in UNISON’s Northern region.

Tweet screengrab of picket in Gateshead

Then a contribution from John Gary, one of the union’s leading lay activists.

Screengrab of text from UNISON's John Gary

And one from the North West region, focusing on a single member and why she has made the difficult decision to strike.

Kat and why she is striking

16:40pm And now some pictures from today across the South West.

Picket in Bournemouth today

On the picket line in sunny Bournemouth

Picket in Bridgewater today

Members were out in Bridgewater too

A picket in Exeter, at the East Devon Operations Centre

Making the point in Exeter, at the East Devon Operations Centre

A picket in Minehead

‘Saving your NHS’ in Minehead

Swindon picket with a dog

Swindon pickets

More pickets in Swindon

… but they weren’t on their own in Swindon

A picket line in Taunton

A bright day in Taunton

A picket in Torbay

Getting the message out in Torbay

a picket line in Yeovil

And so to Yeovil

16:25pm “It’s important to take action” Steve has been a paramedic for 20 years. Today, he joined colleagues and fellow UNISON members on the picket line at Waterloo in London.

Steve with a UNISON London ambulance service

“It’s important to take action rather than go on strike,” he says, “because the patient experience has become intolerable and it’s intolerable to be asked to provide that.

“Staff retention needs to improve, pay and conditions need to improve and the recruitment needs to improve.”

And Steve concludes: “Pay is only one part of that, but the action that we take is to bring attention to the declining circumstances of the ambulance service”.

16:20pm More pictures from picket lines – this time, from Liverpool and Aintree in the North West region – including Sara Gorton, UNISON’s head of health, being interviewed by Granada Reports.

Picket in Merseyside

Another Mersey picket

Merseyside picket with placard

Early morning pickets outside a hospital in Merseyside

UNISON head of health Sara Gorton being interviewed outside a hospital in Merseyside

15:20pm Bringing a message of solidarity from The European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) to those taking industrial action today, Richard Pond was standing with striking UNISON members at the London Ambulance Service station at Waterloo in London.

It was “absolutely crucial for us to support all our affiliates across Europe taking action,” he said.

“This one is the latest – yesterday, we were at the nurses’ picket line – and across Europe we’ve expressed solidarity, as so many of our health unions have been taking action over similar issues: pay, cost of living crisis, staffing crisis.

“Really, it’s just the latest in a whole stage of union action, to try and health services and public services.”

15:15pm “It breaks my heart really” Trainee emergency medical technician Eden is on the picket line nat Waterloo in London with his fellow UNISON members today.

Trainee paramedic technician Eden at the Waterloo picket, in front of an ambulance and with a Greater London UNISON Ambulance Service flag

Explaining that, “throughout the pandemic, I was working in blood collection and phlebotomy training and found it really rewarding, but I wanted to keep progressing.

“London Ambulance Service had an option to do an apprenticeship scheme and transition to being a paramedic rather than go to university, so it seemed like a cost-effective route.”

What gave them pleasure in the blood collection work was “the help and the benefit that it gave people and to be able to that every day in this job is amazing”.

Eden explains that one of the core reasons for taking industrial action is “seeing paramedics spending a whole 12 hours on shift at a hospital [waiting for patients in their ambulances to be admitted] and it’s just a waste of our time.

“We need to highlight what’s going on so that we can help people in the community that need it.”

Citing the “massive backlogs in social services” that is a key part of why there are admission problems, Eden adds that it’s the state’s responsibility, before concluding: “It breaks my heart really.

“No one should have health inequality, but there’s so much, especially in this area in London at the moment. It feels like it’s the only way to stand up.”

14:40pm And a few pictures from the Waterloo picket in London this afternoon, where Christina McAnea joined striking members – and a large gathering of media.

Christina McAnea at the Waterloo picket today, addressing the media

Group of pickets at Waterloo ambulance station, with placards and banners

Christinas McAnea being interviewed at the Waterloo ambulance station picket today

Three members in front of a London ambulance, with an official UNISON strike placard

Official picket placard in front of a brazier

14:35pm Christina McAnea had a challenge for the government today, when she joined striking ambulance workers on the picket line at Waterloo in London – it’s time for it to “tell the truth”.

Christina McAnea with pickets, addressing the media at Waterloo ambulance station

As media crowded around and passing vehicles honked support, the general secretary – still angry over the claims from health secretary Steve Barclay that there were no arrangements for emergency cover during the strike – reiterated that the secretary of state himself had stated, in a tweet yesterday, that there were contingency plans in place.

She said that, in talks with the health secretary, he had wanted to talk about “rotas, new-build hospitals” – anything but pay.

It was, she said, “government putting lives at risk every single day”.

14:00pm Christina McAnea joined members of Greater London region, who work for the London Ambulance Service, on their picket at Waterloo late this morning.

 Christina McAnea at the Waterloo London Ambulance picket

11:37am UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea has a message for ambulance strikers. Acknowledging how difficult it is for any worker take the decision to strike, Ms McAnea said:

“The current state of the NHS, and the resulting industrial action, is not your fault. Any blame from the government today, is a deflection away from taking responsibility for their own actions over the last 12 years.”

10:42am You can download graphics to use on social media and show your support for the strikers.

screengrab of UNISON health twitter feed.

And follow UNISON’s health group here.

10:19am Hundreds of messages of solidarity with strikers are pouring in. Here’s one from John:

“As a long term Neuroendocrine cancer sufferer prone to carcinoid crisis, I have had to avail myself many many times of the ambulance service, and all you fabulous paramedics and drivers.

“Although I am at risk on any given day, I not only support your strike because I think you deserve a wage rise. I support you because you are fighting to save our ambulance service and our NHS, that our unelected Prime Minister and his cabinet are determined to destroy.”

09:40am And our first visit of the day to a picket line – in the North West.

Screengrab of a text from UNISON North West, featuring a picture of a picket line and supporters in Aintree


09:25am After health secretary Steve Barclay used an article in today’s Daily Telegraph to state that: “We now know that the NHS contingency plans will not cover all 999 calls. Ambulance unions have made a conscious choice to inflict harm on patients”, UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea and assistant general secretary Jon Richards responded in shock at the claims.

Screengrab of tweet from Christina McAnea

Screen grabs of tweets by Christina McAnea and Jon Richards

Ms McAnea, speaking on Good Morning Britain, described the claims as “utterly untrue”.

09:05am There are strict laws on picketing during industrial action and the union could be heavily fined if these are broken.

But there are plenty of way in which non-striking members and any other supporters can show their solidarity with strikers today.

Check here to find out more

If you’re following events on Twitter, make sure to check @unisontheunion and @cmcanea. And if you yourself are tweeting, please use the hashtag #PutNHSpayright.

08:55am Good morning all. As UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea tweeted last night, today’s strikes are going ahead. “I had hoped the government would move on pay, to get this dispute resolved, but their position is still fixed. We have no option but to continue with our strike action and consider more action in January.”

So, at 7.30am this morning, “nurses, porters, HCAs, cleaners and other NHS staff at the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital and Royal Liverpool University Hospital took brave action and started their 24hr strike over pay and staffing,” continued Ms McAnea.

We will be updating this rolling report throughout the day, so check back to find out what’s going on.