Talks offered over ambulance walk-out

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TRADE union leaders have offered to hold Easter talks in a bid to avert a planned strike by South Yorkshire ambulance workers next week.

The Unite union is offering to enter into negotiations with health bosses over the Bank Holiday weekend, in a bid to settle a dispute over patient safety concerns.

Bosses at Yorkshire Ambulance Service want to introduce emergency care assistants to work alongside paramedics, as part of measures to save £46 million over the next five years.

The assistants are required to take a six-week training course, while paramedics study a two-year degree course.

Union representatives claim the response to 999 calls will become ‘a lottery’, creating uncertainty among patients as to whether they will be visited by paramedics or assistants.

Terry Cunliffe, regional officer at the union, said: “Unite is prepared to hold talks with the management at any time over the Easter holiday to resolve this dispute in the interests of patients and the general public.

“We are very conscious that the public in Yorkshire wants to see this dispute settled, and we also want a resolution, but not at the expense of patient safety.

“To achieve this means addressing the underlying issues.

“I would be happy to meet under the auspices of the conciliation service ACAS for meaningful and constructive talks over the holiday period.”

Unite made the offer ahead of the one-day strike by its 450 paramedics and other ambulance staff members across Yorkshire on Tuesday.

Its members at the ambulance service have been operating a continuous work-to-rule since Tuesday.

Unite was recently de-recognised as a trade union by the trust.

Stephen Moir, deputy chief executive of Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said plans would be put in place to ‘avoid any disruption to patient care’, should the strike go ahead.