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In the NHS, more than 3,000 ambulance driver and paramedic posts are underfilled, the highest level in five years, new figures reveal.
Vacancies across the UK’s ten ambulance trusts have tripled in the past two years, ministers admitted.
The figure underscores the scale of the staffing crisis, which has partially fueled unprecedented industrial action.
Labor has accused the government of failing to train the staff the NHS needs, resulting in record lengths of ambulance wait times.
Thousands of paramedics and ambulance drivers from Unite and GMB unions are currently on strike in the UK, with more strikes planned across the UK in the next few days.
In a parliamentary response to Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting, Health Secretary Will Quince revealed that there were 3,334 vacancies in the UK Ambulance Trust for full-time or equivalent roles in September 2022.
This is almost double the 1,749 vacancies a year ago and more than triple the figure in September 2020, when there were 990 vacancies.
There were 2,846 and 2,011 vacancies in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
Mr Streeting said:
“Heart attack and stroke victims have waited an average of an hour and a half this winter where every minute counts. Patients are no longer confident that the NHS will be there in an emergency.
“Jeremy Hunt should adopt Labor’s plan for the biggest workforce expansion in NHS history in next month’s budget, and it should be paid for by abolishing non-residents. Rishi Sunak must finally negotiate with NHS staff to end the strike, which is disrupting patient care.”
GMB Secretary of State Rachel Harrison said:
“The NHS has reached its breaking point and this government is trying to pretend it’s not happening.
“The health service will continue this overwhelming recruitment and retention crisis until ministers address the main issue: payments.
“That’s why the GMB paramedics are on strike. The government needs to discuss payments now. We are waiting.”