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Scottish ambulance staff threatened with strike as A&E wait times reach worst level on record in September

Ambulance staff joined other healthcare workers in voting to strike over a pay dispute.

More than 4,000 members of the GMB union, covering paramedics, technicians, nurses, porters and radiographers, have backed industrial action in a bid to secure an improved pay offer.

NHS Scotland staff said the Covid-19 pandemic “has revealed and exacerbated chronic shortages” in staffing levels, adding that workers have been “significantly undervalued”.

It comes as recent figures show that accident and emergency service wait times in Scotland have reached their worst monthly performance on record.

Figures from September revealed that the four-hour wait time target had been missed for more than three in ten patients.

Meanwhile, one in ten patients (10.2%) were there for a minimum of eight hours – a total of 13,506 people.

Around 89% of Ambulance Service GMB members who took part in the ballot-backed strikes, along with 98% of Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board members, 97% in Lanarkshire, 94% in Forth Valley and 88 % in Lothian.

GMB Scotland organizer Karen Leonard has called on the health secretary to come up with a new offer to satisfy ‘exhausted and increasingly angry’ members.

She added: “There should be no surprise in government circles about this clear mandate from our members; their threat to strike is the inevitable consequence of years of austerity and the controlled decline of our NHS by political leaders and the unsustainable pressures this has placed on a workforce everyone depends on.

“But it is also an opportunity for Humza Yousaf to listen to the voice of workers and present the vastly improved offer he promised just a few weeks ago, otherwise the country faces the real prospect of strikes this winter in NHS Scotland and the ambulance service.”

The Scottish Government’s target of having patients seen and admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours was met for 69% of patients during the month.

Opposition parties called the latest data “utterly appalling”, saying there is now a “full-fledged crisis which requires immediate action” at A&E.

The latest weekly figures, which cover the seven days to Sunday October 23, showed that the four-hour target was met for less than two-thirds (65%) of patients during this period.

During the week, there were 8,473 patients in A&E for more than four hours, including 3,072 for eight or more hours and 1,391 waiting for at least 12 hours.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: “Under the chronic mismanagement of Humza Yousaf, monthly A&E waiting times were the worst on record in September – so there is hardly any need to think about winter.”

Yousaf said: “Although Scotland’s A&E performance continues to be the best of the four nations, our performance is not where I want it to be.”

“I have been clear that the recovery will not happen overnight and we are working to reduce the pressure on the system as we enter an extremely difficult winter period.

“We are supporting services with our £600m winter plan which will see us recruit 1,000 new NHS staff, including up to 750 frontline nurses from overseas.”

The Health Secretary continued: “The A&E pressures are driven by discharge delays elsewhere in our hospitals. This is why our winter plan emphasizes social protection and actions to encourage integration authorities to help reduce delays.