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Unions leaders hit back after UK Health Secretary says they have ‘chosen to inflict harm’

21 Dec 2022 3 minute read
Health Secretary Steve Barclay. Picture by Victoria Jones / PA

Unions have reacted with fury to comments by the UK Health Secretary about the strike by thousands of ambulance workers in a bitter dispute over pay and staffing.

Steve Barclay said in the Daily Telegraph that unions had made a “conscious choice to inflict harm” on patients.

Rachel Harrison of the GMB union said: “Ambulance workers are seething at such a crude, insulting attempt to divert attention from the Government’s continued chaos in the NHS.

“The public know it’s not ambulance workers who have presided over a decade of failure.

“Already today paramedics and ambulance workers have left picket lines to attend to emergency calls. They’ll always put the public first.

“It’s time for the Government to follow their example.”

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “People are already dying or getting sicker every day because the Government’s let the NHS get into such a dire state.

“Ministers have sat back while ambulance response times worsened and waiting lists reached record highs. Ambulance services and the wider NHS no longer have the staff to provide safe patient care. And all this on the Government’s watch.

“There’s a complete absence of a ministerial plan to tackle the worst staffing crisis in the history of the NHS. Steve Barclay’s stubborn refusal to boost pay is more damaging than he realises.

“The public wants ministers to treat NHS staff better and pay them more, as do many politicians on the Government’s side. Trying to paint ambulance workers and their unions as the bad guys in this dispute won’t wash.

“People know it’s ministers who are recklessly putting lives at risk by refusing to negotiate. Unless the government commits to a proper wage rise this year, action will likely escalate in the new year.

“The health secretary must stop the insults and groundless accusations and take responsibility for solving this damaging dispute.”

‘Blatant lie’

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “To say that ambulance unions have taken a conscious choice to inflict harm on patients is a blatant lie.

“The unions have negotiated critical cover, including 999 calls, at a local level with hosts of NHS Trusts. That is how it is done.

“Stephen Barclay obviously doesn’t understand how these issues are dealt with in the NHS. That is an embarrassment for him and the Government. He has now lost all credibility. Clearly he isn’t the man for the job. He’s well past his sell by date.”

Unite said both the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary were guilty of an “astonishing abdication of responsibility” as they use the Pay Review Board as a “smokescreen for doing nothing”.

Sharon Graham added: “Where is Rishi Sunak? He is, as usual, absent without leave. It is time we got some adults in the room. The Prime Minister should step up to the plate and meet the unions to negotiate a new deal. We’ll meet him on Christmas Day if needs be.

“In all my 25 years negotiating deals I have never seen such an abdication of leadership as that of the current posted-missing PM and the out of touch hapless Health secretary.”

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THOMAS William Glyn
THOMAS William Glyn
1 year ago

Too many people will punch out the phrase “it’s a vocation” so what, they should not be expected to work for peanuts. I would say that politics is a vocation !!

1 year ago

I recently read an article, where Vladimir Putin said the Ukraine had brought all these problems on themselves , why do I get the same feeling when I read the statement made by the UK health sec. Are they both trying to justify themselves, and the consequences of their actions .

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 year ago

‘Though I walk through the valley of death I will fear no evil because to work for this bunch of cut-throats the devil took my soul on the first day’…Barkley is a dead man walking, as is Sunak and Hunt, Messrs Eat Out and What! No PPE!

Valerie Matthews
Valerie Matthews
1 year ago

Would he do their job for their pay?? NO CHANCE he earns many times the salary of a Paramedic or Nurse! Not to mention all the ‘cut price’ food and booze, utility bills paid for! AND of course, ‘Expenses’ of around £200k a year! When are we going to get rid of these parasites and get a Government who ACTUALLY ‘serve’ the Country. How DARE he criticise the NHS staff for reaching the end of their tether!

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