Information regarding upcoming industrial action

North East Ambulance Service is preparing for planned national industrial action by Unison, GMB and Unite, who are in dispute with the Government over the 2022/23 pay award. In the North East, the unions will be taking industrial action on:

  • GMB – 21 and 28 December 00.01h to 23.59h (24 hours)
  • Unite – 21 December 00.01h to 23.59h (24 hours)
  • Unison – 21 December 12:00h - 00.00h (12 hours) 

We recognise the legal right of union members to take part in this planned industrial action and the fact that this is not a decision anyone takes lightly. We have a workforce of more than 3,000 people and as the decision to strike is a personal one, we will not know until the day how many staff will be available to respond. However, we expect to see a large proportion of our workforce taking industrial action throughout the region.


We will be implementing a series of actions to ensure care is managed for the most seriously ill and injured as we prepare for the impact these strikes will have.

Our aim is to prioritise support for our emergency care services on the road and in our 999 emergency operations centres and our NHS111 service. However, there will be a significant and noticeable difference in the way we operate on the 21st and 28th December. We expect operational challenges to last for a further 48 hours after the strike action has ceased, so our advice is to plan for up to 72 hours of disruption. The Christmas bank holiday period is also expected to increase pressure on our services in the days directly before 28 December. 

On days when there is industrial action, there will be fewer ambulances available. 999 call handlers will assess any call and prioritise an ambulance response for those that need it most. This will only be where there is an immediate risk to life.

Patients should only call 999 if it is a life-threatening emergency. Where it is not life-threatening, alternative support will be available through, and where possible, people should make their own way to any appointments or treatment centres.

We will also be providing a reduced level of our scheduled care patient transport services. We will continue to provide essential transport for patients attending dialysis, oncology and cardiology treatments. Hospitals discharges will also continue to ensure patient flow is maintained across the region.

We are working with private providers to ensure non-urgent transport is in place and we are also maximising the use of our volunteer car drivers. We will also be receiving additional support from the military, who will be assisting with the transportation of low acuity patients and our discharge service.

We have already implemented several actions to prioritise patient care as part of our resilience planning, and NEAS has already been operating at REAP (Resource Escalation Action Plan) level 4 since October 2022, our highest level of escalation, as we continue to face significant operational pressures. During these periods of industrial action we will continue to operate at REAP level 4. REAP is designed to provide NHS ambulance services with a consistent and coordinated response to situations that challenge operational delivery. It is similar to the Operational Pressures Escalation Levels (OPEL) framework used in other parts of the NHS.

Our command structure will be in place to ensure all available resources are used efficiently on the days of industrial action and prioritise the safety of our patients. We will be maximising the use of our clinical staff, remote clinical assessment and support from our volunteers. The situation as planned is that ambulance staff will focus on life-threatening illnesses or injuries. We have currently agreed the following derogations with our unions, although negotiations are ongoing and further updates will be shared:

  • GMB – emergency care staff will be exempt by from the strike by the union to respond to category 1 calls and calls assessed by a clinician and deemed to be at risk of life and limb. 50% of control room staff exempted from industrial action by the union on a voluntary basis on 21st and 28th December; and patient transport staff will be exempted from the strike by the union on 21st and 28th December to convey patients to appointments for dialysis and chemotherapy.
  • Unison – emergency care staff will be exempt from the strike by the union to respond to category 1 calls; calls assessed by a clinician and deemed to be at risk of life and limb. All other staff groups are exempted by the union from the industrial action on this occasion. This includes members working in our control rooms and patient transport services and support services.

All unions have agreed that their members will respond in the event of a major incident being declared.

Senior clinicians will be based in all our control rooms overseeing incoming 999 calls and making decisions on a response, based on clinical need. However, they must adhere to the agreed exemptions and derogations.

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