Striking ambulance crews thank Swanage for ‘fantastic’ support

A picket line at Swanage ambulance station was joined by local residents in support of the crews who are on strike in protest against low pay and poor working conditions.

The third day of action in Purbeck during the recent dispute, took place on Monday 6th February 2023, with plenty of passing traffic hooting their horns in support.

Ambulance picket line in Swanage

The picket line at Swanage ambulance station with supporters

Part of strike action across England

This strike by South Western Ambulance Service staff who are members of either the GMB or Unite unions, is part of wider action across England, with nurses also on strike in some regions.

In Wales, GMB union ambulance staff have put further walkouts on hold while discussions take place on a better pay deal, while in Scotland a new pay deal has been agreed.

Ambulance picket line in Swanage

Some music was provided by local musician Rob Mills

“I’d like to thank everyone who’s turned up today”

GMB union organiser for Purbeck and paramedic Duncan Shayler said:

“It’s nice to see that the devolved governments have made a move and engaged in pay talks. We’re now just waiting for Westminster to listen to us.

“The public support in Purbeck has been fantastic and I’d like to thank everyone who’s turned up today, hooted their car horn or contributed to our strike fund.

“We really are on strike to improve staffing recruitment and retention, which we can’t do without better pay. In Purbeck, we are continuing to see delays in getting an ambulance to patients and then delays handing patients over at A and E. In fact, it’s all about having enough NHS staff throughout the system.

“The next strike is scheduled for Monday 20th February and there’ll be a picket line at Wareham ambulance station but I really hope it won’t be necessary.”

Although on strike, the ambulance crews were still responding to category one 999 calls – those with imminent danger to life.

Ambulance picket line in Swanage

Swanage Town Council councillors Debby Monkhouse (left) and Avril Harris (right) joined the protest in a personal capacity

“Please support our exhausted ambulance staff”

Joining the picket line at Swanage ambulance station were a number of local residents including Defend Dorset NHS campaigner and Swanage councillor Debby Monkhouse. She said:

“I’m here to support the ambulance staff as it’s a disgrace how underfunded the NHS is. It’s not just about pay but also the conditions. The lack of staff means the paramedics are doing such long shifts to cover the rota.

“They’re facing the anger of people waiting for far too long for an ambulance and having to make important decisions about patient care while working long hours. It’s horrendous for them and far too many end up suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

“We know lots of people in Swanage and across Purbeck love our ambulance car and have shown tremendous support which enabled it to be saved.

“Now I’d ask everyone to please support our exhausted ambulance staff, who are still responding to dire emergencies while on strike. They really need our appreciation”

Ambulance picket line in Swanage

Supporting the strikers – Candy Udwin from Dorset TUC support strike group (left) and chair of Swanage Labour Party Chris Bradey (right)

“We can feel the crisis in the NHS”

Stoborough resident Candy Udwin from Dorset TUC support strike group also came down to Swanage to visit those on strike. She said:

“I think they’re fighting for the future of the NHS – they’re fighting for all of us. We can feel the crisis in the NHS. If they don’t get a payrise, then they’ll not be able to recruit. They deserve all of our support.”

“Chronic underfunding of the NHS”

Chair of Swanage Labour Party Chris Bradey added:

“We’re wholly behind the strike and clear that pay is only part of what the strike is about. There’s chronic underfunding of the NHS, long waits for ambulances and then further time spent waiting to be admitted to hospital, and cancellation of operations on the day.

“And there seems to be a complete lack of recognition of these issues by the government. Meanwhile it is clear to those on the picket lines there is overwhelming support for the strikes!”

Health Secretary Steve Barclay, speaking during a visit to Kingston Hospital in south west London, said that he “wants to work constructively” with unions and defended the government’s long held position that awarding a higher pay rise would make inflation worse.

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