Yorkshire ambulance staff have voted to take strike action over changes in shift patterns which could mean paramedics going more than 10 hours without a meal break and staff being forced to work 12 hour shifts.

The staff, members of Unite, the country’s largest union, voted overwhelmingly for a 24 hour strike which will commence at 00:01 hours on Saturday 1 February 2014.

Unites members at the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust will strike again for four hours between 15.00 and 19.00 on Monday 3 February over the imminent introduction of new elongated shift patterns.

The members voted by a margin of 76 per cent for strike action.

Today (Friday 24 January) Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe again called for talks with the trust’s chief executive David Whiting on the new shift patterns and their impact on patient safety.

Raising these concerns led to the trust derecognising Unite – the first anniversary of which falls on 4 February.

Unite said that the proposals would impact on patient safety as hard working ambulance staff could go more than 10 hours without a meal break, as such breaks would be at the whim of managers. The union wants a protected meal break of 30 minutes after six hours.

The background is that the trust wants to make £46 million of cuts over a five year period.

Terry Cunliffe said:
Our members are taking action as they are very concerned about the scale of these changes and how they will impact on patient safety in Yorkshire. The shift patterns are not family friendly and will lead to an overtired workforce.
Once again, Unite makes the offer of talks with David Whiting, the trust’s chief executive, who has dug in his heels and refuses to engage with the legitimate concerns Unite has raised on behalf of its members and the Yorkshire public.”

The union has also expressed concern at the continued and increasing use of private ambulance firms to ‘plug the gaps’ in NHS 999 responses which was particularly noticeable in December and over the Christmas and New Year period.

Unite ambulance members previously took strike action on 2 April and 7 June 2013 over concerns regarding patient safety.