Yorkshire ambulance staff strike to protect patient safety from effects of £46m cuts

As Yorkshire paramedics and ambulance staff go on strike for two days,  Unite is calling for an independent inquiry by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) into the long-running Yorkshire ambulance dispute,

Unite, the country’s largest union, said that such an inquiry was needed so the Yorkshire public could judge for itself the impact on patient safety of £46 million of cuts over five years.

Unite’s 375 Yorkshire ambulance members are holding two further strikes on Friday (14 February) between 15.00 and 20.00 and next Monday (17 February) at the same time. They are striking over the imminent introduction  of longer shift patterns that could mean working 10 hours without a meal break.

The latest chapter in the dispute about the impact of spending cuts on patient safety – and Unite’s derecognition for raising those concerns – follows revelations that the Trust’s bosses drive unnecessarily extravagant, top of the range Mercedes and BMWs, which Unite has condemned.

Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe said:

“The latest strikes over elongated shift patterns follow the latest refusal of the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust to meet Unite to resolve the dispute.

“I would emphasis that the trust’s executive did not enter face-to-face negotiations to resolve the dispute at Acas-brokered talks which led to strike action taking place on 1 and 3 February.

“It has now refused to meet the union to seek agreement to avoid this week’s strike action.

“We would welcome an independent enquiry by the CQC to determine whether it is Unite or the trust’s executives who are misleading the public about the facts in this dispute, including the reason for Unite’s derecognition; patient safety; and whether the trust’s plan is focused on patient care or is just a five-year £46 million cost cutting exercise.

“It is also very significant that Unison members have also rejected the trust proposals by a 70 per cent to 30 per cent majority.

“We are continuing to work with community representatives, commissioners and MPs throughout the region to reach a fair settlement for the Yorkshire public and our dedicated members.

“We understand that there will be public concern about this action and would want to assure them that this is a last resort as a result of the trust’s executives refusal to negotiate with Unite.”

Unite members went on strike for 24 hours on Saturday 1 February 2014, which was then followed by a four hour strike last Monday (3 February).

Unite said that the Trust’s proposals would affect patient safety as ambulance staff could go more than 10 hours without a meal break, since such breaks would be at the whim of managers. The union wants a protected meal break of 30 minutes after six hours.

Photo credit: Unite

The union has also expressed concern at the continued and increasing use of private ambulance firms to ‘plug the gaps’ in NHS 999 responses. This was particularly noticeable in December and over the Christmas and New Year period.

Unite ambulance members previously took strike action on 2 April and 7 June 2013 over patient safety concerns.

Privatised non-urgent care ambulance service raises questions about integrity in public life

West and South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Commissioning Support Unit (WSYBCSU) recently set up shop with one of its own employees, Sarah Fatchett, to create a privatised non-urgent care ambulance service that aims to cover the whole of England and sell non-urgent care ambulance transport to virtually every NHS hospital, clinic, GP centre and clinical commissioning group in the country.

The new “Managed Transport” partnership is between 365 Transport Ltd, a company where Ms Fatchett is a director, and the WSYBCSU.

Ms Fatchett has since left WSYBCSU to build up the new “managed transport” partnership as a Director of 365 Transport Ltd.

There is concern that WSYBCSU has failed to act in accord with the Nolan Principles for integrity in public life, in that the 365 Transport Ltd manager, who initiated the new privatised ambulance service, was working at WSYBCSU at the time the partnership was established.

WSYBCSU has claimed that it has not breached rules regarding conflict of interest rules, but it has failed to provide adequate documentary evidence to back up this claim.

Since WSYBCSU is not subject to the Freedom Of Information Act, UCV Plain Speaker is putting in a FOI request to NHS England, in order to get to find out if WSYBCSU has really followed all conflict of interest rules in setting up this privatised ambulance service.

There is also concern that the WSYBCSU/365 Transport Ltd private ambulance business dangerously creates a conflict of interest for the WSYBCSU, between its new role as a private healthcare provider and its statutory job of supporting Clinical Commissioning Units in making decisions about which healthcare services to commission, and from which providers.

Photo credit: Header banner photo, Leeds Socialist Party.

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