600 military personnel covering thousands of striking ambulance workers

Watch: Ambulances at Wellington Barracks in central London as military personnel cover thousands of ambulance workers taking strike action.

Six hundred military personnel are providing cover for the thousands of ambulance workers taking strike action across England and Wales.

Up to 25,000 ambulance workers across England and Wales are striking on Wednesday in a dispute with the Government over pay.

Striking over pay and working conditions are paramedics, call handlers, drivers, and technicians from the Unison and GMB unions – all are taking part in staggered strikes across a 24-hour period.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: "Today's ambulance strike is an unwelcome return to unnecessary disruption and comes at a time when the NHS is already under huge pressure from Covid and flu.

"While we have contingency plans in place, including support from the military, community first responders and extra call handlers, to mitigate risks to patient safety, there will inevitably be some disruption for patients with fewer ambulances on the road."

Military personnel at Wellington Barracks to cover ambulance driving duties 21122022 CREDIT MOD Crown Copyright.jpg
Ambulance workers are demanding a pay rise above inflation (Picture: MOD Crown Copyright).

Last month a Ministry of Defence (MOD) spokesperson confirmed the MOD had accepted a request from the Department of Health and Social Care under the Military Aid to the Civil Authorities process, also known as 'Maca'.

The military has been preparing and in December carried out two days of training at Wellington Barracks in London, where personnel received instruction on how to drive ambulances safely and how to operate patient lifting equipment.

Personnel covering for striking ambulance workers will not be allowed to break the road speed limit, jump red lights at pedestrian crossings or turn on vehicle blue lights when driving patients to the hospital.

Unison head of health Sarah Gorton said progress had been made at a meeting with Health Secretary Mr Barclay on Monday, adding there was "ample time" to resolve the dispute before the next strike.

GMB national secretary Rachel Harrison said the union "needs a concrete offer" for its members.

On Tuesday, the Government introduced new legislation to Parliament for "minimum safety levels" when workers go on strike.

Business Secretary Grant Shapps told the Commons the ambulance strike on Wednesday "still does not have minimum safety levels in place and this will result in patchy emergency care for the British people".

Ambulance workers in England and Wales are demanding a pay rise above inflation. The Government says most ambulance staff have received a pay rise of at least 4%.

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