Industrial Action - Frequently Asked Questions

10 January 2023

Q: What should people do if they need an ambulance?
A: People should only call 999 if there is a risk to life, or someone is seriously ill or injured. Ambulances will be dispatched where clinically appropriate. For all other healthcare needs, support will be available at or at a local GP surgery or pharmacy.

Q: What is considered an emergency, and will my 999 call be answered?
A: You should only call 999 if there is a risk to life, for example, a cardiac arrest, unconscious patient or catastrophic bleed, or if someone is seriously ill or injured such as a stroke or a serious traumatic injury. Ambulances will be dispatched where clinically appropriate.

Q: How many fewer ambulances will you have responding to emergencies in Yorkshire and the Humber?
A: It is not possible to say how many colleagues will be participating in industrial action as it is a personal decision made on the day of action by individual members of the trade unions which have the mandate to strike

We have been working with our local and national trade union representatives to agree exemptions (also referred to as derogations) for patients which some UNISON and GMB members may still attend during the period of industrial action.

However, we are clear that we will not be able to respond to all 999 calls, and there are likely to be significant delays in responses to patients who have a less serious illness or injury.

Our priority is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all our patients and staff. We have planned with great care for this industrial action, but we anticipate that our services will be extremely busy and we do expect them to be severely disrupted.

Q: If the ambulance is taking a long time to arrive, what should I do?

A: It is likely to take us longer than normal to get to patients on days of industrial action because there will be fewer ambulances available.
Staff in our emergency operations centres (999 control rooms) will carefully assess and prioritise an ambulance response for those who need it most, and this may only be where there is a threat to life or limb.

You may be asked to make your own way to hospital or a medical treatment centre if it is safe to do so.

If you are waiting for an ambulance, please do not call 999 again to ask for an updated estimated time of arrival for an ambulance.

You should only call 999 again if you wish to cancel the ambulance because you are making their own way to hospital, or if the patient’s condition has significantly worsened.

Q: Will my non-emergency patient transport be impacted?
A: Only essential Patient Transport Services (PTS) journeys will be taking place on 11 January. This will be for essential appointments to renal dialysis, chemotherapy, cardiology or oncology, and end-of-life-care.

Our PTS planning teams have been working with hospitals and clinics to identify essential journeys and cancel those journeys which do not meet the essential criteria.

Patients will be contacted directly by the hospital or the ambulance service to inform them of a cancellation.
Hospital discharges will be prioritised to ensure hospitals and emergency ambulances have capacity to receive patients with a life-threatening condition.

Q: Do I need to cancel my transport and hospital appointment for the days of industrial action?
A: No, patients should expect their booked transport to arrive as normal and should attend their appointments as normal, unless contacted directly by the hospital or the ambulance service to inform them of a cancellation.

Q: If staff are already on shift and treating a patient when the industrial action begins, will they just stop working?
A: If delivering patient services, staff must complete the patient call they are on before they are permitted to stand down; this includes in call centres as well as providing direct patient care.

Q: Will you be receiving support from the military?
A: We are using 40 military personnel to support with the transportation of low acuity patients and our discharge service.

Q: Where will the picket lines be held?
A: Picketing is likely to take place at ambulance stations across Yorkshire and the Humber where union members who are participating in industrial action are based.

Q: Can members of the public join the picket lines?
A: No - not as part of official picketing.

However, they could be present and exercising their human right of protest despite not being part of the official picket.

The Code of Practice on Picketing states ‘anyone seeking to demonstrate support for those in dispute should keep well away from any picket line so as not to create a risk of a breach of the peace or other criminal act being committed on that picket line.’

Q: Can YAS pay its staff more money and stop the strikes?
A: No, NHS Agenda for Change pay levels are agreed at a national level and not locally. This is a dispute between the Government and unions over the 2022-23 pay award.

NHS messages for the public:
• Regardless of any strike action taking place, it is really important that patients who need urgent medical care continue to come forward, especially in emergency and life-threatening cases - when someone is seriously ill or injured, or their life is at risk.

• The NHS will contact you if your appointment needs to be rescheduled due to strike action. Therefore, if you are not contacted, please attend your appointment as planned.

• GP services are not impacted by this strike action. Please continue to attend your GP appointments, unless you are contacted and told otherwise.

• If you need medical help or advice, go to NHS 111 online unless it is a life-threatening emergency when you should still call 999.

• Patients should only call 999 if it is a medical or mental health emergency [when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk].

• Ambulances will still be able to respond in these situations, but this may only be where there is an immediate risk to life.

• There will be fewer ambulances on the roads during industrial action, with the NHS prioritising those with life-threatening needs. As a result, patients whose conditions are not life-threatening are unlikely to get an ambulance on strike days.

• During strike days, it is likely 999 call handlers will be very busy. NHS 111 call centres will have fewer staff, with longer call response times expected across the system. As a result, we are urging anyone with a non-urgent care need to first seek help from NHS 111 online.

• For more information on when to call 999 and when to go to A&E, you can visit the NHS UK website.

Produced by: Corporate Communications Department