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Public urged to only call 999 as Ambulance Service strike action commences

Member of amabulance service at back of ambulance.

Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) is urging the public to only call 999 in the case of a life-threatening emergency as staff commence two days of strike action.

Trade Unions representing members of the ambulance service announced the action, set to take place today, Friday 31 March, and on Monday 3 April, after no agreement was reached in a dispute over pay and working conditions.

NIAS issued advice to the public on Friday morning saying:

"Patients should only call 999 if it is a life-threatening emergency. This includes unconsciousness, chest pain, difficulty breathing, severe loss of blood and choking.

"Patients whose conditions are not life-threatening will face lengthy delays on days of industrial action.

"Where the situation is not life-threatening, please be aware that you may be advised to arrange alternative transport.

"Please do not call back to check on arrival times of ambulances as this creates blockages in the system".

Strike action has been planned by the unions as follows:

• UNISON will take full strike action on Friday 31 March from 00:01 am – 11:59 pm and on Monday 3 April from 00:01 am – 11:59 pm

• RCM will take full strike action for four hours on Monday 3 April from 08:00 am – 12:00 noon

• NIPSA will take full strike action on Monday 3 April from 00:01 am – 11.59 pm

The Northern Trust says it is anticipating that Industrial Action today and on Monday will impact across a range of services including:

  • Inpatient and daycase treatments: 14 patients (gynae, general surgery, gastro and urology)

  • Outpatient appointments: 12 patients (midwifery, anaesthetics and gynae)

  • Mental health services: 2 patients (memory service, health and wellbeing service)

  • GP treatment rooms: 158 service users

  • District nursing: 40 hours deferred

  • Hospital Diversion Nursing Team: 15 hours deferred

  • Recovery service: up to 120 assessments / reviews

  • Acute OT: up to 60 assessments / reviews

  • Day centres: 1 closed (41 attendances)

  • Children’s services: 2 child protection case conferences rearranged impacting 2 children.

  • Public health nursing: 3 service users

The message to patients and service users remains that they should attend any planned appointments unless contacted by the Trust to advise otherwise.

If you have any concerns or issues in relation to your pregnancy or your baby during the RCM Strike action on Monday 3 April between 8am and 12 noon please do not delay attending the hospital or telephone the Fetal Maternal assessment Unit in Antrim or Causeway Hospital to speak with a midwife.

• Antrim Hospital, Fetal Maternal Assessment Unit: 028 9442 4345 or

• Causeway Hospital, Fetal Maternal Assessment Unit: 028 7034 6128.

Ahead of strike action tomorrow and on Monday, Director of Operations, Rosie Byrne, talks about the challenges we will face.

Yesterday, Thursday 30 March, Northern Ireland's Department of Health (DoH) said it "regrets the industrial action in health and social care and the inevitable disruption it will cause across a range of services."

The DoH statement continues:

"The Department fully understands the frustrations of staff and the severe challenges they have been working under.

"As things stand, the Department is not in a position make a formal pay offer.

"This reflects the current absence of a budget for 2023/24 and the expectation of a significant financial shortfall.

"We are potentially facing high impact cuts on health and social care services that are already under considerable pressure.

"We are seeking clarification from the UK Government on Barnett consequentials for Northern Ireland from the proposed pay settlement in England. This will help inform ongoing engagement with trade union colleagues".


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