Ambulance drivers and paramedics gathered outside Islington Ambulance Station to strike “on behalf of the whole of the NHS” on Wednesday (December 21).

Staff at the Brewery Road station joined a national action, which took in 28 locations across London. 

Joel Bodmer, regional organiser of Unison union, said: “The NHS is creaking at the seams.

"The government will say that we are causing a strain on the system, but it was strained before we went out on strike."

Mr Bodmar cited pay issues during a cost-of-living crisis and low staffing levels as the main reasons for the action.

“Fundamentally, this is about the pay offer from the government," he said. 

"They have to get much closer to inflation if they hope to retain their staff. There are a lot of low-paid minimum wage staff working for the NHS, not just us, who can’t afford to live in London."

Terry, a paramedic and Islington Ambulance Station union representative, said: “We’ve had nine years of an annual 1% pay rise that is always below inflation.

“These guys don’t want to be going on strike, it’s a last resort.”

During the strikes, paramedics would still respond to the most serious 999 calls relating to Category A life-threatening situations.

“The priority is keeping people safe," said Terry.

On Wednesday afternoon a war of words broke out between unions and health secretary Steve Barclay, who has said he will not back down on pay.

Mr Barclay said the Unite, Unison and GMB unions had “refused” to work with the government at the national level to set out plans for dealing with the strikes. But the unions said all those agreements had been made locally and were in place.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham also accused Mr Barclay of a “blatant lie” for saying ambulance unions had taken a “conscious decision” to inflict harm on patients.

A London Ambulance Service spokesperson said it declared a “business continuity incident” as the stikes coincided with “high demand across our 999 and 111 services”.

They added: “In recent days, we have been taking up to 7,000 999 calls every day compared to a pre-pandemic busy day of 5,500 calls."

If you need medical help or advice, go to NHS 111 online unless it is a life-threatening emergency when you should still call 999.