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Howard and Byrne Solicitors, York - Criminal Defence Specialists

Yorkshire Ambulance Workers Could Strike

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3:11pm 11th February 2013

Yorkshire's ambulance workers could go on strike in a row over patient safety and a union being derecognised.

Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe said: “I can confirm that Unite has begun the legal process to hold an industrial action ballot over the trust’s unilateral decision to derecognise Unite.

“The management is trying to silence Unite after it raised legitimate concerns over patient safety that could flow from the shake-up of ambulance services in the next five years.

“The trust’s behaviour is mind-boggling given last week’s Francis report which placed great emphasis on whistleblowing and ‘a duty of candour’.

“Whatever the outcome of the ballot, our members will always put patient safety first.”

A key proposal by the trust - in a bid to save £46 million over the next five years - is the introduction of emergency care assistants (ECAs) to work alongside more highly-trained paramedics. The ECA staff have only six weeks training, when a paramedic undergoes a two-year degree course.

It's claimed by the union that this introduction has resulted in managers currently deploying unqualified staff to emergencies with, in some cases, other ECAs or unqualified assistant practitioners.

Unite said the response to 999 calls is becoming a postcode lottery. The sick and injured may receive attention from a fully-trained paramedic crew, but, on the other hand, they could get a private ambulance containing unqualified staff.

David Whiting, Chief Executive of Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: “We carefully reflected upon this difficult matter before advising Unite the Union of our decision to derecognise them.

“Unfortunately the working relationship with Unite the Union remains disappointing and we have not received a constructive contribution to the difficult decisions that the Trust has been required to make for the future, particularly as we seek to maintain high-quality care for patients against the realities of the tough economic climate.

“I would like to reassure members of the public that all our decisions are focused on continuing to deliver a high quality and responsive service to patients and this will always remain our top priority.”

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