Paramedics’ union accuses government of “unnecesarily risking the lives” of their members

They are not being given hand sanitiser, wipes and masks.

The GMB union has accused the government of “unnecessarily risking the lives” of ambulance workers by not providing them with hand sanitiser, wipes and mask

The union said that the government, not management, was to blame because the lack of equipment was a “the direct result of ten years of crushing cuts to our NHS” and “managers of ambulance services are at a loss as to what to do – they want to protect staff but are unable to”.

The union, which represents ambulance workers and paramedics, said that testing equipment was often faulty and that staff were over-burdened by a 70% rise in 111 calls and the increased workload caused by their colleagues getting sick.

Rachel Harrison, GMB National Officer, said: “The stories we are getting from the front line are obscene. How can you expect our emergency workers to deal with the COVID-19 crisis without hand sanitiser, wipes or masks? Our hardworking ambulance members will always put the patients first – but they shouldn’t have to unnecessarily risk their lives to do so.

The union made five demands from government, which it says will keep its members and the public safe:

  1. Priority testing for vital workers.
  2. Full pay for all vital workers who have to self-isolate and the Government to underwrite any employers who can’t afford it.
  3. Priority emergency PPE given as a priority to vital health workers e.g. goggles, thermometers, masks, hand sanitisers.
  4. Full Agenda for Change for all vital workers to reflect risks and overtime.
  5. Paid-time childcare or care support for vital health workers.

The Chief Operating Officer of NHS England Amanda Pritchard was asked whether there are any shortages of protective equipment like gowns, face masks, goggles, gloves, aprons and hazmat suits.

She said: “We have been assured that there is sufficient supply available nationally. We have had the benefit of being able to release our influenza stockpile and our EU exit stockpile so nationally we are currently assured that we do have the adequate supply we need.”

“However, we are aware that there have been some local distribution problems so we haven’t necessarily got the kit in the right place”.

Pritchard said that a helpline had been set up so that those lacking the kit can get it transported to them.

Joe Lo is a co-editor of Left Foot Forward

Update: This article was updated with Amanda Pritchard’s comments on 17/3/20

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