England

Yorkshire Ambulance Service workers stage 12-hour strike

Yorkshire Ambulance Service staff on site
Image caption The ambulance service plans to introduce emergency care assistants to work with paramedics

Ambulance workers in Yorkshire are staging a 12-hour strike in a dispute over the introduction of emergency care assistants.

Members of Unite in Yorkshire walked out at 12:00 BST over proposals they say represent a "downgrading of the frontline response to emergency calls".

About 500 ambulance workers are expected to take part in the industrial action.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust said contingency plans were in place.

The row centres on plans to make savings of £46m over the next five years, including introducing emergency care assistants to work with more highly-trained paramedics.

Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe said: "Our members are increasingly concerned about patient safety because of the downgrading of the current skill level on NHS frontline vehicles in Yorkshire.

"Deeply concerning"

"We call, yet again, on the blinkered, hardline management at the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust to enter into meaningful talks with Unite."

The union said a further planned 24-hour strike will take place on 22 June if the dispute remains deadlocked.

David Whiting, chief executive of the trust, said he was "deeply concerned" by the strike but said the trust was committed to minimising disruption.

He said: "We recognise the legal right for those of our staff who are members of the union to participate in industrial action, but our focus is to balance that right with the need to first safeguard patient care and safety.

"However, I do not believe that industrial action in this form is in the best interests of patients, and it is deeply concerning for a trade union representing ambulance service workers to strike without making any concessions to patient safety."

The NHS trust ended its voluntarily recognition of Unite for the purposes of collective bargaining in February.

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