Bolton paramedics have taken to picket lines today in what they described as a bid to ‘change’ their vital but threatened services.

They have been joined by ambulance workers, technicians and call handlers all over England and in today’ strike action over pay and conditions.

But as NWAS Unison branch secretary Jeff Gorman explained, they also believe that the action they take today is vital to the welfare of patients in the long term.

Mr Gorman said: “It’s important because things need to change, we can’t carry on with patients calling 999 and then having to wait before the ambulance turns up and then waiting longer when they get to hospital before they can be seen.

“Our members, paramedics, have had to sit and watch people deteriorate while they wait for treatment, its wrong and it needs to change.”  

The Bolton News: Unison members say their cause is also about protecting servicesUnison members say their cause is also about protecting services (Image: Unison)

He added: “There’s obviously a pay element as well because we really struggle with retaining people.

“We’ve got no problem recruiting but its keeping people, because our members endure these conditions but will then think to themselves that they could be working in a doctors’ surgery and earning more pay there.”

The strikes taken by ambulance workers are part of a wave of industrial that has swept the country involving railway workers, local government employees and nurses as workers struggle to cope with the mounting cost of living crisis and years of stagnant pay.

As well as Unison, members of Unite and other unions have also been taking part.

The action is likely to affect non-life-threatening calls in Bolton and across the country, but Mr Gorman says his members would far rather be back on the front line.

He said: “All we ask for is for the health secretary or Rishi Sunak to get round the table, be sensible and come to a solution.”

He added: “None of us wants to be on strike, none of us.”

But Health Secretary Steve Barclay says that the government is reviewing pay for next year.

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Appearing on the Today Programme, he said: “We’re already three quarters of the way through this year so what you’d be saying is, go all the way back retrospectively to April to unpick what has been an independent decision by the pay review body.

“But we’re already now under way in terms of next year’s pay review process, the remit letters have gone out.

“Obviously that body will then consider the changes in inflation, the other issues that have been raised, all as part of the normal process of looking at next year’s pay, so we should look forward.”