Patients in Somerset are being warned to only call 999 in a life-threatening emergency on the second day of strike action by ambulance workers.

Somerset will be affected by the second national strike by ambulance workers as part of their pay dispute on Wednesday, January 11. The walkout includes paramedics, emergency care assistants, call handlers and other staff across the region. 

The strike involves workers from the GMB and UNISON unions, who account for two-thirds of all ambulance workers. The industrial action will impact every region of England and Wales other than the east of England.

The South Western Ambulance Service, which covers Devon and Somerset, urged people to only call 999 in a life-threatening emergency. It warned people to arrange their own transport if the case is not urgent.

The GMB union said that: “Workers across the ambulance services and some NHS Trusts have voted to strike over the Government’s imposed 4 per cent pay award - another massive real terms pay cut."

The unions’ general secretary Rachel Harrison said that: "To end this dispute, GMB needs a concrete offer to help resolve the NHS’s crushing recruitment and retention crisis.”  

The South Western Ambulance Service Trust has issued an appeal ahead of Wednesday’s industrial action. In a statement they said: “The South Western Ambulance Service is again urging the public to think carefully before dialling 999 during industrial action on Wednesday (11 January) and to only call if it is a life threatening or life altering emergency.” 

The statement added: “Where the situation is not life-threatening, alternative support will be available through NHS 111 online or through calling NHS 111, and where possible, it is advised that you arrange alternative transport, should you need to visit a healthcare location.” 

The trust has warned that “less serious, non-life threatening incidents” may not result in an ambulance callout during the period of the strikes. Patients are urged to find their own transport to NHS services where it is safe and practical to do so. 

The BBC reports that Category 3 calls, such as a woman in late stage labour, will not be prioritised, and that: “Those who have a fall, or suffer other non-life-threatening injuries are unlikely to receive 999 care.” 

In total more than 10,000 ambulance workers will take part in stoppages after talks between trade unions and the Health Secretary broke down. The GMB said that there had been "some engagement on pay – but not a concrete offer that could help resolve this dispute and make significant progress on the recruitment and retention crisis.” 

Ambulance staff are striking over pay which has failed to keep up with rising prices. In the 12 months to October 2022 inflation stood at over 11%. However ambulance staff have been offered a 4% rise in pay. The UK government said that pay rises for ambulance workers are decided by an independent body, and it accepted the recommendations in full. 

The strikes are set to be repeated on January 23 and will involve workers of UNISON and Unite the Union, but not GMB.