AMBULANCE staff in Yorkshire are preparing for strike action on Tuesday (April 2), after attempts at last minute talks over the Easter weekend failed.

Members of Unite are to hold a 24-hour strike over proposals to introduce emergency care assistants to ambulances in the county.

The care assistants will be teamed up with more highly-trained paramedics with the Yorkshire Ambulance Service, who have completed a two-year degree course. It is part of plans to make £46m savings over the next five years.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust says the changes will maintain a high-quality response service. But Unite says the move will result in 999 responses becoming a “postcode lottery” with some patients receiving fully-trained paramedics and others getting lesser-qualified staff.

Members are also protesting over the trust’s subsequent derecognition of its Union.

Unite, which has 450 paramedics and other ambulance staff members with the service, has already begun industrial action. Its members started an overtime ban on Tuesday, March 26.

The union’s regional officer, Terry Cunliffe, said since announcing the intended strike action, further talks between Unite and senior staff at the trust were held, which were mediated by Acas.

When the talks broke down, Mr Cunliffe said he offered to meet with executive staff over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, in a bid to divert Tuesday’s strike action. But today (Sunday, March 31) that offer had not been taken up.

He said: “The Acas officer said she would come in herself over the Easter weekend to attend any talks, but unfortunately we’ve had no approach so far from the trust for last minute peace talks. “The strike will go ahead on Tuesday unless the trust offers to meet with us.

“Industrial action has already started to demonstrate the depth of feeling members have about safety and the union derecognition, but to no avail unfortunately.”

He added: “Our members held out. They wanted the union to give the trust every opportunity to seek a resolution without it reverting to industrial action, but unfortunately there’s only so far we can go.

“I’ve made these offers, I’m still available right up to the last minute to meet with these members of the executive, but unfortunately that only works if two sides are willing to talk.”

Recently the trust said it had plans in place to avoid disruption to patient care if industrial action went ahead.

A spokeswoman for the Yorkshire Ambulance Trust said  they couldn’t comment on the proposed strike action at this stage.