Lifesaving ambulance staff in the North East have begun strike action amid warnings from paramedics there ‘simply isn’t enough’ of them.

Paramedics and 999 call handlers were among those on picket lines outside ambulance depots across the region as an ongoing row over pay and staffing rumbles on.

Workers from the GMB, Unison, and Unite unions all walked out as the public were urged to think again on ‘risky activity’ and only use A&E and 999 in life-threatening conditions.

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Speaking from a picket line outside the ambulance depot in Chester-le-Street, Rapid Response Paramedic John Lennon told The Northern Echo: “It has been a horrendously difficult decision for all of us to go out on strike but I feel like we’ve been left with no choice.


“You don’t have to do this job long to find out how stressful it is – I’ve had colleagues leaving to work at a supermarket for not much less money but a lot less stress.

“Last week I spent four hours waiting at a patient’s house for colleagues to come and help while other jobs came up nearby that I couldn’t get too.

“I’ve had colleagues only helping one patient a shift because they’ve spent 12 hours waiting with them at hospital.

“The government need to realise that they need to pay us to keep experience staff and staff us properly otherwise the situation is never going to get better.

“There simply isn’t enough of us.”

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Responding to critics claims that the strikes will put lives at risk John added: “The government were putting lives at risk yesterday, and they’ll be at risk tomorrow when we’re back from the strike.”

The Northern Echo: Easington MP Grahame Morris joined striking workers in PeterleeEasington MP Grahame Morris joined striking workers in Peterlee (Image: NORTHERN ECHO)

On Monday the North East Ambulance Service declared a critical incident, before workers went on strike, with more than 200 patients waiting for an ambulance.

Meanwhile regional union bosses have said the government needs to get around the negotiating table and ‘get serious’ in the ongoing row over pay.

Unison Regional Ambulance Branch Organiser Miles Elliott said: “The government need to get around the table and get serious or the situation will only get worse.

“Only around a fifth of our staff are on strike today, but if the government don’t start negotiating we’ll bring more out on strike.”

The Northern Echo: GMB ambulance workers formed a picket line at the North East Ambulance Service depot in Newcastle on Wednesday (December 21) morning.GMB ambulance workers formed a picket line at the North East Ambulance Service depot in Newcastle on Wednesday (December 21) morning. (Image: NNP)

It comes as Health Secretary Steve Barclay accused unions of making a “conscious choice to inflict harm” on patients in Wednesday's Daily Telegraph.

The Government, which ultimately decides the level of pay to be awarded to public sector workers covered by the pay review process, has continued to cite the independence of the pay review process as it refuses to negotiate on the pay demands of nurses and ambulance workers.

On Tuesday nurses at hospital trusts in Newcastle, Gateshead and Northumberland walked out for a second day of strike action in a row over pay and conditions.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has been calling for a pay rise of 5% above inflation, though it has indicated it would accept a lower offer.

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