London

London Ambulance Service sorry for pension strike delays

London Ambulance Service (LAS) has apologised for delays in responding to emergency calls during Wednesday's strike.

LAS asked police to help it respond to 999 calls after staff walked out over proposed changes to their pensions.

LAS said it faced "severe pressure" as 42% of staff went on strike, on a day when calls were 30% higher than normal.

The service says it will carry out a detailed review of events and is discussing what happened with unions.

'Admirable job'

Deputy director of operations Jason Killens said: "We are now operating a normal service following the severe pressure that we were under as a result of the industrial action.

"It is disappointing that, despite asking staff to return to work as normal when we had significant numbers of patients waiting for ambulances and had declared an internal major incident, few did so.

"We apologise again for the delays some of our patients experienced while we focused on getting to our most critically ill and injured patients as quickly as we could."

He continued: "Our staff who handled 999 calls in our control room did an admirable job.

"We will carry out a detailed review of the events of yesterday, and we have already started discussions with the unions about this."

Mayor praises unions

The ambulance staff were part of a nationwide day of action over proposed changes to public sector pensions, which the unions said some two million people took part in.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: "The LAS had considerably underestimated the number of their members who were going to stay away.

"In spite of some very useful work by the unions themselves to appeal to people to come in, by that stage in the afternoon too many had gone away so it was necessary to use police cars."

The government, which disputed the two million figure, said that with people living longer, reforms were needed to public sector pensions.

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