Pregnant women warned not to rely on ambulance help during strike

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xpectant mothers who go into labour during Wednesday’s paramedics strike should make their own way to hospital as there will be “no guarantee” paramedics will be able to reach them at home, London health trusts have warned.

Barts Health NHS is expecting its services to face unprecedented pressures from Tuesday until Thursday as London Ambulance Service (LAS) drivers stage a walkout.

The Trust, which runs five hospitals in east London including The Royal London in Whitechapel, said in a statement: “Our hospitals will effectively be running at the highest alert level for three days either side of the London Ambulance Service action.

“Our maternity services will run as usual, although we urge people expecting to give birth on Wednesday to make plans in advance for getting themselves to hospital.”

Chelsea and Westminster hospital trust warned mother’s planning home births to reconsider because paramedics are unlikely to be able to attend if there are complications.

In a statement to expectant mothers it said: “On the day of the strike, there is no guarantee that an ambulance or paramedic will be able to come to your home in the event of a home birth complication.

“The days around this date may also be affected and ambulances may take longer to reach homes than usual. 

“Your safety and the safety of your baby are our top priority. In view of this, we strongly recommend that if you go into labour on the day of the strike that you give birth at the maternity service at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital or West Middlesex University Hospital.”

It comes as nurses at four London hospitals staged a walkout on Tuesday in a row over pay and conditions.

Nurses at Barts are not taking industrial action, but the latest data shows that its hospitals are under extreme pressure.

More than one in ten ambulances that arrived at the Trust on December 11 faced a delay of more than an hour handing patients over to A&E.

Other NHS trusts across the capital have also issued warnings over the strikes hitting the NHS this week.

The Royal Free London Trust said its emergency departments would be “incredibly busy” on Wednesday and it urged patients not to attend unless their condition is “urgent or life-threatening”.

Ambulance workers at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust are planning strike action on December 21.

The trust said maternity services would continue but that ambulances would only respond if there was “an immediate risk to life”.

On Monday night, LAS said Londoners were “unlikely to get an ambulance” during the strikes unless there was an immediate threat to their life.

Professor Julian Redhead, National clinical director for urgent and emergency care at NHS England, told the Commons Health and Social Care Committee on Tuesday said that “demand and flow” was the main problem facing the health service.

He told MPs: “Demand on our emergency services is up to phenomenal degrees, especially at the moment.

“We’ve seen increases in flu, we’ve seen increases in Covid admissions and the cold snap – we know cold weather is associated with ill health as well and we’ve seen rises from those as well.

“Our occupancy levels are higher now than most times of the year. So we’re running at about 98 per cent occupancy across our trusts.”

Describing challenges across the whole system, he added: “Definitely that means that our response times are difficult for the ambulance service at the moment.”

Dr John Martin, President at College of Paramedics, said that waiting times had got longer.

He said that, over the last five years, demand had gone up 18 per cent in England, with a 50 per cent figure for category one calls.

“So we are seeing a sicker population who are calling us more often.”

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