PARAMEDICS on the picket line in Herefordshire have said that the current situation is "not what they signed up for" as they call on the government to take action.

Ambulance workers and paramedics are today taking industrial action over pay and conditions, in the first such move in a generation.

Mark Smith, who has been a paramedic for 40 years and is the Hereford GMB union branch secretary, was one of those on the picket line outside Hereford's Ross Road ambulance station this afternoon.

Mr Smith, who served three years in the army as a medic and four years as a nurse in the NHS before joining the ambulance service, said he and his colleagues were deeply saddened to have been compelled into this situation, but that they were also deeply saddened to see patients sitting in ambulances outside hospitals for hours and hours, knowing there is very little they can do for them.

"It is not what we signed up for," Mr Smith said.

"We see us being talked about on TV as ambulance drivers, and we are not. It's an insult. These guys have trained for years, and we are being put into a position where we cannot care for our patients.

"I do this job because I care."

Hereford Times: Mark Smith is among the paramedics striking in Hereford todayMark Smith is among the paramedics striking in Hereford today (Image: Charlotte Moreau)

But, Mr Smith said, current working conditions are unacceptable for paramedics and ambulance staff and affecting not only the care and service they can give their patients, but also their home and family lives.

"In the last hour of a shift, we can be sent to a patient in Worcester," Hereford-based Mr Smith said.

"With minutes to go until the end of a shift, we can then be sent to another patient in Worcester. We then triage them, treat them, and if they need further treatment, take them to hospital in Worcester, where we then have to wait at the end of the queue.

"I got back to Hereford at 8.30pm the other night, for a shift that should have finished at 6pm. It is soul-destroying, because of the knock-on effect it has on your family. You could also be in the next morning for your next shift.

"You get 11 hours between shifts, but there's no quality to your downtime or sleep. This is on top of the stress of not doing what you are trained for and patients appealing to you for help you cannot give in the back of an ambulance."

Paramedics nationally have said that they can spend entire shifts waiting in queues outside A&E with a patient who needs hospital treatment.

Mr Smith said that pay is also a vital factor in recruiting and retaining staff, with paramedics and some nursing staff also taking to the picket lines over the Government’s imposed four per cent pay award, which a GMB spokesperson described as "another massive real terms pay cut".

"The average time a recruit stays in the job is five years," Mr Smith said.

Mr Smith said he knows many paramedics who have left the service and have gone to work in other settings, such as GP surgeries, where their years of training are not being put to best use.

"It is a shame that we are having to take this action, but we need the government to talk to us about pay and conditions," he said.

"I have a medal for going to Sierra Leone, but what do these guys get for working through Covid? They get a clap."


Rachel Harrison, GMB National Secretary, said earlier this month, when strike dates were announced: “After twelve years of Conservative cuts to the service and their pay packets, NHS staff have had enough.

“The last thing they want to do is take strike action, but the government has left them with no choice.

“Steve Barclay needs to listen and engage with us about pay. If he can’t talk to us about this most basic workforce issue, what on earth is he Health Secretary for?

“The Government could stop this strike in a heartbeat – but they need to wake up and start negotiating on pay.”

Hereford's paramedics and ambulance staff will strike again on December 28.

Want to stay up to date with all the latest news for your local area? It's easy, just sign up for our weekly email newsletter here and all the important stories that matter to you will be delivered straight to your inbox.