A STRIKE by ambulance staff in Wiltshire looks likely to go ahead after talks have broken down.

UNISON has given notice to the Great Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust that they will be going ahead with industrial action but say their door is always open for further talks. No date has been set for the strike yet.

Dan Tucker, paramedic and joint branch secretary for UNISON, said: “We are really disappointed by the outcome of the talks and the trust’s management. We gave the trust the opportunity of putting a package together, but their offer falls far short of reassuring staff that the new system could ever deliver high standards.

“The trust's proposals and enforced changes will continue to leave lives at risk, which is something our members are telling us they're not prepared to accept. As a result we’re left with no choice but to give the trust seven days’ notice before we begin industrial action.”

UNISON says the dispute is not about pay but the health, safety and welfare of dedicated frontline ambulance crew, the impact on service delivery and effective patient care. They maintain that members don’t want to take industrial action but feel they now have no choice.

Simon Newell, UNISON south west regional organiser, said: “The trust's current systems and proposals will continue to see some staff being sent out to calls without the right level of qualifications or training, arriving at incidents where they would be unable to offer any clinical intervention. How would you feel if your child was suffering an asthma attack and the ambulance crew were not qualified to administer the right medication? It would put that child's life at risk.

“Our members are angry and frustrated over how the trust has treated them and ignored their legitimate concerns. Given the outcome of the ballot and strength of feeling amongst our members, we feel we are left with no choice but to take industrial action.”

David Whiting, chief executive of Great Western Ambulance Service, said the trust will continue to provide a safe and effective 999 service.

“Today’s announcement from UNISON is extremely disappointing and will do nothing to benefit the many hundreds of patients we attend every day. However, I would like to reassure our public that we have robust contingency plans in place to make sure that we continue to provide effective care and that vital 999 services will not be disrupted by UNISON industrial action.

“The changes we are making are about saving more lives. To do that, we need to ensure we have the trained staff and vehicles available when and where our patients need us.

“I also believe the changes are better for our staff. We are taking on additional frontline staff and looking to make our existing crews more effective by increasing the operational cover we provide at the busiest times – particularly evenings and weekends.

“This is not about job cuts and it is not about cutting salaries. The changes to shift start and finish times were made so that we can keep as many staff on the road at any one time. We have spent the last six months consulting with staff and meeting with union representatives on a regular basis.”