Unprecedented strike action is a direct response to low pay creating soaring vacancies and leading to the current NHS crisis, writes Sharon Graham

People in the UK under the age of 50 are unlikely to remember the last national ambulance strike in 1989-90. The then health secretary, Kenneth Clarke, provoked outrage by describing the workforce as “professional drivers—a worthwhile job but not an exceptional one.”1 National pay strikes of ambulance workers have been rare because the workforce is dedicated to patient care and their roles are so obviously lifesaving.

Considering this, it is shameful that government ministers like Grant Shapps falsely claimed that during the strike in December ambulance workers put lives at risk by not agreeing national minimum levels of cover.2 Nothing could be further from the truth: derogations were worked out at regional level with ambulance trusts to agree the necessary “life and limb cover” that was needed during the strike. We agreed to full cover for emergency and life threatening calls, and made provision for striking workers to leave …

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