NHS industrial action in Greater Manchester

What will happen

Planned industrial action will be taking place on Wednesday 21 December and Wednesday 28 December that will affect ambulance services. GMB, Unite, and Unison members of North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) plan to strike on Wednesday 21 December, with GMB members also planning a further 24 hours of action on Wednesday 28 December.

From 19 December until Friday 23 December, and then also on Wednesday 28 December 28th a reduced patient transport service will be in operation. The service will be available for renal, oncology and palliative care patients only.

NWAS expect operational challenges to be felt for a further 48 hours after each day of planned industrial action, so is advising health and care colleagues to plan for 72 hours of disruption this week.

Our response

NHS Greater Manchester Integrated Care (NHS GM) will be managing a system-wide response. This includes an incident control centre, which will be operational on all strike days. We are working with partners to ensure appropriate plans are enacted to deal with any service disruptions that arise before, during and after any industrial action.

We are also working closely with union representatives to maintain the safety and welfare of patients during planned staff walkouts and to ensure any impact on services are minimised.

Letters to all local authorities (for onward cascade to commissioned care homes and domiciliary care providers), NHS trusts and primary care providers were issued on Friday 16 December to warn and inform of the likely impact.

Senior clinicians will be based in all NWAS control rooms to oversee incoming 999 calls and make decisions based on clinical need – however they must adhere to agreed exemptions and derogations.

The Greater Manchester Primary Care System Board has recommended that where GP practices have not already done so, to employ additional locum cover on and around the dates of the NWAS industrial action in anticipation of a likely increase in demand. NHS GM has provided around £4.5 million in surge funding to support resilience, which can be used flexibly to fund additional locum cover. 

We have also suggested that practices may wish to:

  • Switch from pre-bookable to same day appointments when industrial action is taking place, to retain capacity.
  • Use taxis to transport patients to hospital if it is safe and appropriate to do so. NHS GM will reimburse any costs incurred.
  • Ensure staff are aware of the local ‘alternatives to admission’ advice and service provision in their area, such as crisis response services.  

Information for the public

  • 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.
  • It is really important that patients who need urgent or emergency medical care continue to come forward as normal during strike action.
  • During industrial action, NHS 111 call centres will have fewer staff and longer call response times are expected. For this reason, people are advised to seek help from NHS 111 online, unless their call relates to a child under 5 or they do not have internet access.
  • Hospital inpatients will be informed if their care will be impacted on a ward-by-ward basis by the staff involved in delivering their care.
  • Check that you have sufficient supply of regular medicines for the festive period. Order repeat prescriptions via your GP practice or local pharmacy and leave plenty of time as they may be busy. Please avoid using NHS 111 for this purpose.
  • The NHS will contact you if your appointment needs to be rescheduled due to strike action. If you have not been contacted, please attend your appointment as planned.
  • Please continue to attend your GP appointments, unless you are contacted and told otherwise.
  • To find out more, including any updates, go to the industrial action page on the NHS GM website.