Patients would be better served if ministers solved NHS disputes instead of picking fights

Christina McAnea says government’s proposed strike laws won’t make disputes disappear

Speaking on the eve of a second strike at five English ambulance services and reacting to new government legislation aimed at curbing strikes, UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said today (Tuesday):  “Ministers can’t make these disputes disappear simply by making up new laws.“Health workers are stretched beyond breaking point. They don’t need lecturing on providing safe patient care by a government that’s spent the past decade starving the health service of funding and underpaying staff.“Ministers have finally got around the table to talk about the one issue that will solve this dispute – a wage boost. But that positive move risks being undermined by needlessly attacking health workers and their unions.“Regardless of what Grant Shapps might say, UNISON has worked hard to secure patient safety during strikes, and that will continue.“In fact, ambulance employers praised the union for the role it played in drawing up local emergency cover plans in December. Last time, staff didn’t hesitate to leave picket lines when someone’s life was in danger.“After a decade of refusing to bring in minimum staffing levels in the NHS 365 days a year, It’s ironic that the government is only prepared to do so during a strike.“Every other day of the year ambulance crews are stuck queuing for hours outside A&E departments and hospital staff are rushed off their feet. But the government isn’t interested in minimum staffing levels then.“Ministers should be putting all their energies into solving the NHS dispute, not worsening relations with health workers. Unions want to work with the government to secure a pay deal, but attacking workers makes that much harder.”Notes to editors:– Ambulance staff belonging to UNISON will strike tomorrow (Wednesday) at five services in England – London, Yorkshire, the North West, North East and South West – over pay and staffing. Paramedics, emergency care assistants, ambulance technicians, other 999 crew members and control room staff are among those who will be on picket lines at various times during the day.– Details of key picket line locations and times are available here– UNISON is re-balloting ambulance workers at five ambulance services in England (South East Coast, South Central, East of England, West Midlands and East Midlands) and the Welsh Ambulance Service. This began on 6 January and continues until Monday 16 February.– UNISON is the UK’s largest union and the largest union in the NHS and in the ambulance sector, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors. Press contacts:Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: Barnes M: 07834 864794 E: Ayad M: 07508 080383 E: