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Public warned to only use 999 for life threatening emergencies as ambulances strike

Nurses on strike outside of University Hospital North Durham last month. <i>(Image: Sarah Caldecott)</i>
Nurses on strike outside of University Hospital North Durham last month. (Image: Sarah Caldecott)

With ambulance workers and nurses both set to strike tomorrow (February 5), the public has been warned that 999 and A&E should be used for "life-threatening emergencies only".

On 16 January, the Royal College of Nursing announced a further two strike days for England and Wales on February 6 and 7, described as being the biggest so far.

Nurses will be joined on picket lines by ambulance workers from two unions - Unite and GMB - as they stage their fourth walkout.

Strikes will now be happening across the NHS every day next week apart from Wednesday (February 8).

Read more: Railways, NHS, Education - full list of UK strikes in February

NHS leaders asked the public to only call 999 for an ambulance, or attend A&E, for life-threatening conditions or injuries during strike action on Monday and Tuesday.


The ambulance service will then be impacted by a further day of action on 10 February involving Unison members.


Emergency and urgent care centres in the North East and North Cumbria will remain open as industrial action takes place..


Strikes will impact the North East Ambulance Service, Yorkshire Ambulance Service, and five NHS hospital trusts in the region – Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust, Gateshead Health Foundation Trust, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust and South Tees Hospitals.


Read more: County Durham teachers speak out over funding and redundancies


In Yorkshire, union membership in the ambulance service is approximately 1,370 staff (out of a workforce of over 7,000), meaning emergency services will be serverly impacted.

Dr Neil O'Brien, Executive Medical Director for NHS North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board, said: "It is going to be another challenging few days with more services across the region affected.

"We have plans in place to ensure the safety of those patients who may need our help in an emergency, and we are putting into practice all that worked well from the previous industrial action.

"However, patients should expect long delays at a time when services continue to be under significant pressure.

"Patients should continue to attend scheduled appointments as planned unless they hear from the NHS to say otherwise. Any postponed appointments will be re-arranged as a priority."

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: "It is regrettable that health unions are going ahead with strike action.

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"NHS contingency plans are in place but these co-ordinated strikes will undoubtedly have an impact on patients and cause delays to NHS services.

"We accepted the recommendations of the independent pay review body to give over 1 million NHS workers, including nurses and ambulance workers, a pay rise of at least £1,400 this financial year, on top of an increase the previous year when wider public sector pay was frozen.

"I have been having constructive talks with unions about what is affordable for 2023/24, and urge them to call off the strikes and come back around the table."

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