Ambulance chiefs warn of strike delays

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Ambulance chiefs warned that some emergency patients could face a longer wait for attention today due to strike action.

Hundreds of thousands of public sector workers across the country were taking part in a 24-hour walk-out over pensions changes which mean they will have to work longer and pay more.

Most schools were expected to be shut. All museums, galleries, libraries and community centres in Edinburgh were due to be closed. Travel, hospitals and courts were all affected, as well as tax offices, driving test centres and all main government buildings. Some ambulance crews and ambulance and police control staff were among those expected to strike.

A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “We will continue to operate an emergency service. Depending on how busy we are, patients with less serious conditions may have to wait longer.”

He said ambulances taking people to hospital appointments were a separate part of the service, but in many cases hospitals had cancelled appointments for tomorrow. However, a service would still be available for patients to go to hospital for essential treatment such as kidney dialysis.

Police officers were on standby to fill in for striking civilian support staff, especially on taking 999 calls.

One policeman told the Evening News no-one would be able to get through to the non-emergency line and only “real emergencies” would be dealt with on the 999 line.

But a police spokesman denied there would be any lesser service for 999 calls.

He said: “Plans are in place to have all essential police staff roles covered by on-duty police officers and staff not participating in the strike.

“This will have no impact on frontline policing and anyone wishing to report a crime can still do so by dialling 999 or by contacting the Lothian and Borders Police on 0131-311 3131.”

A Unison spokesman said people could expect public services generally to be operating the kind of service they would have on Christmas Day.

He said: “Members of the public can dial 999 with the same confidence as usual.”

The Scottish Parliament was also hit, with many staff on strike and Labour and Green MSPs staying away in solidarity.

Lynn Henderson, Scottish secretary of the civil service union PCS, said: “The fact that they voted for strike action and will be on picket lines in workplaces in every constituency in Scotland is a measure of how angry PCS members are: angry because of the betrayal by the UK Government that seeks to force them to work longer, pay more and get less in retirement.”