Health workers must be first when it comes to raising wages, but their politicized unions shouldn’t put their lives at risk

THE UK rightly admires its healthcare workers, not only for their flawless work during the pandemic, but for the effort they put in week in and week out.

During Covid, emergency room staff have continued to do their jobs even when not equipped with proper protective clothing – and when the rest of us were safely wrapped up at home.

Health workers' decision to call strikes at a time when the NHS is suffering from unusually high demand is a shameful move

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Health workers’ decision to call strikes at a time when the NHS is suffering from unusually high demand is a shameful moveCredit: Louis Wood
While nurses should be first in line for a pay raise, the strikes will almost certainly claim lives

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While nurses should be first in line for a pay raise, the strikes will almost certainly claim livesCredit: PA

And of course it is true that praising them is not enough. As some of the placards waved by striking nurses make clear, health workers’ clapping doesn’t help heat their homes or get food on their tables.

When Britain is out of its long public finance crisis, which began under Gordon Brown and has been greatly exacerbated by the pandemic, nurses should be the first to seek a pay rise.

However, as will become clear shortly, sympathy for nurses and other medical professionals does not extend to health care union leaders.

On the contrary, their decision to call strikes at a time when the NHS is suffering from unusually high demand is a shameful, politicized move that will almost certainly cost lives.

Today’s strike by ambulance workers promises to be particularly dangerous. At least during last week’s nurses’ strike, emergency care continued. That will no longer be the case today.

Unions have agreed to only respond to the most serious Category 1 calls, where there is an imminent threat of death.

If your 999 call is classified as a Category 2 emergency, you are very lucky to get an ambulance today and may not be tomorrow as there will be a large backlog.

Category 2 emergencies include very serious conditions such as stroke or chest pain, where delays in treatment can have serious consequences.

Vital Equipment

Category 3 emergencies can also be very serious: These include, for example, complications in diabetics.

Unless the unions change course, it is very unlikely that anyone reporting these very serious conditions will get help from an ambulance or paramedic crew today, and they could fight for the rest of the week.

The idea that we can drive stroke victims to emergency rooms instead of waiting for an ambulance – as Health Secretary Will Quince has recommended – misses the point.

Ambulances aren’t just minibuses with stretchers, they transport paramedics and vital equipment to keep patients alive.

Worse, this strike comes at a time when emergency services are already flagging. In October, the average wait time for an ambulance in a Category 2 emergency was more than an hour, twice as long as even at the peak of the pandemic in January 2021.

While the number improved slightly nationwide in November, the seriously ill are still waiting well over an hour in some parts of the country.

The NHS has become overwhelmed in a belated response to the pandemic, with many people having treatment delayed or consultation postponed for worrisome symptoms.

The result is a huge backlog that has claimed lives all year – death rates across the UK have been at elevated levels since the spring.

Add in a strike by ambulances and nurses and the situation threatens to get much worse.

If needless deaths do occur – and it’s almost certain they will – Unison, GMB and Unite could be held responsible by the public.

The attitude of the unions is in somewhat stark contrast to that of the armed forces, which have been re-mobilized to prop up the ailing civil service.

The army was supposed to be there to defend us against aggression from foreign powers, but instead it seems to have become an all-purpose backup for failing parts of the public sector.

God help us if we are indeed ambushed at a time when soldiers are otherwise busy driving ambulances, conducting Covid tests, saving flooded homes and all the other things that are now expected of them.

However, we can be sure that soldiers will not go on strike. They are forbidden from doing so and almost certainly wouldn’t want to go on strike even if they could.

I just don’t understand why the government hasn’t yet fulfilled its electoral promise to require civil servants to meet minimum service levels on strike days.

Misjudged strikes

We can all sympathize with workers who feel their wages are not keeping pace with inflation. Most public and private sector workers will not see wage increases in line with inflation this year.

But if they were smart, public sector unions would wait until the economic situation improves – and the post-pandemic NHS crisis has abated – before making their case.

Unfortunately, however, there is not much wisdom to be found in public sector unions. They appear to have made the decision to provoke a general strike in hopes of overthrowing the government.

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It didn’t work for Arthur Scargill in the 1984 miners’ strike and it won’t work for the health unions.

All they will accomplish in this winter’s misjudged strikes is cause deaths that should not have happened.

However, we can be sure that soldiers will not strike, writes Ross Clark

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However, we can be sure that soldiers will not strike, writes Ross ClarkPhoto credit: Matthew Lloyd – The Times

https://www.the-sun.com/news/6958926/health-workers-first-pay-rise-lives-at-risk/ Health workers must be first when it comes to raising wages, but their politicized unions shouldn’t put their lives at risk

DevanCole

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