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A 93-year-old pensioner was left lying on the floor ‘screaming in pain’ while waiting for an ambulance for 25 hours after a fall. 

Elizabeth Davies was finally taken to Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor but then had to endure another 12-hour wait to be admitted to a ward. 

Her heartbreaking wait came ahead of the biggest 999 walk-out since the 1980s tomorrow, which will see thousands more NHS staff join the around 10,000 nurses who walked out today in a dispute over pay.

Health minister Will Quince urged Britons not to ring 999 unless they are sure their condition is ‘life-threatening’. He said people should avoid doing anything ‘risky’.

Elizabeth Jane Davies, 93, suffered a hip fracture in a fall at her residential care home in Llanbedrog, Llyn Peninsula

Elizabeth Jane Davies, 93, suffered a hip fracture in a fall at her residential care home in Llanbedrog, Llyn Peninsula

She had to wait in agony on the floor for 25 hours and 30 minutes before an ambulance arrived

She had to wait in agony on the floor for 25 hours and 30 minutes before an ambulance arrived

LONDON: Members of the RCN on the picket line outside St Thomas' Hospital today

LONDON: Members of the RCN on the picket line outside St Thomas’ Hospital today

Military personnel from the Household Division take part in ambulance driver training at Wellington Barracks in London, as they prepare to provide cover for ambulance workers on December 21 and 28

Military personnel from the Household Division take part in ambulance driver training at Wellington Barracks in London, as they prepare to provide cover for ambulance workers on December 21 and 28

Soldiers are being given last-minute training to fill in for striking ambulance drivers tomorrow, with senior officer has admitted there will be ‘nerves’ among the troops. 

Health Secretary Steve Barclay is set to meet ambulance unions today in a last ditch effort to avoid further chaos. He is facing calls to resign unless he gets a grip on the crisis. 

Union bosses urged the Government to ‘make us an offer’ on pay to avert the strikes tomorrow. 

Critical incidents have already been declared in hospital and ambulance services across the East Midlands, the North East, the North West and Wales. 

Some areas are already recording six out of ten patients transported to hospital by ambulance being forced to wait outside.

It comes amid a week of industrial action that will see the UK thrown into turmoil, with strikes by Border Force, Royal Mail and rail unions in the lead up to Christmas. 

Yesterday, Mrs Davies underwent surgery to determine the extent of her injuries after a hip fracture was confirmed.

Her son Ian Davies and daughter-in-law Susan, from Pwllheli, have been left beside themselves with worry.

‘It was very upsetting to have to see her lying on the floor screaming in pain for over 24 hours,’ said Ian.

The Welsh Ambulance Service has apologised for what happened. It blamed winter pressures, high demand and staff sickness levels.

Elizabeth, who is originally from Mynytho, Gwynedd but moved to Pentreuchaf after marrying husband Hughie, has been a resident in a care home in Llanbedrog, Llyn Peninsula, for more than 17 years. 

Still relatively fit, the mother-of-three uses a walking frame to get around the care home, which asked not to be named.

But at around 11.45am on Saturday, staff heard a bump and found her sprawled in the living room. ‘They called for an ambulance but were advised an ambulance wouldn’t be available for six to eight hours as they were so busy,’ said Ian.

‘They said my mother would be a priority because of her age. The care home then called us and we came immediately.’

Military personnel from the Household Division take part in ambulance driver training at Wellington Barracks in London today

Military personnel from the Household Division take part in ambulance driver training at Wellington Barracks in London today

A Household Division troop prepares to provide cover for ambulance workers on December 21 and 28 when members of the Unison, GMB and Unite unions take industrial action over pay

A Household Division troop prepares to provide cover for ambulance workers on December 21 and 28 when members of the Unison, GMB and Unite unions take industrial action over pay

The ambulance strike will affect emergency services across England and Wales onDecember 21 and 28

The ambulance strike will affect emergency services across England and Wales on two days

Staff propped a pillow under Elizabeth’s head and did their best to make her comfortable on the wooden floor. ‘They were excellent,’ said Ian, who like Susan is himself a community carer.

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‘They put a small heater next to her to keep her warm in case she went into shock.’

Staff began redialling ambulance control staff once it became clear there would be further delays. 

It’s understood the care home made a total of nine calls: a tenth was made by Ian and Susan.

‘We had to leave at midnight as we had to be up at 5.30am to go to work,’ said Susan. ‘My mother-in-law usually goes to bed at 6.30pm-7pm but she couldn’t and she was getting extremely tired.’

Care home staff stayed with her through the night. ‘Each time they called for an update, they were told my mother was a priority and an ambulance would come as soon as possible,’ said Ian.

An ambulance finally arrived at around 1.15pm on Sunday, some 25 hours and 30 minutes after Elizabeth fell. She was taken to Ysbyty Gwynedd and eventually to a ward. 

Ian and Susan have yet to discover her prognosis. The incident has left the couple bitterly disappointed.

‘I don’t blame the ambulance staff because they are told what jobs to do and my mother wasn’t on the list,’ said Ian. ‘But I was very upset by what happened, it was unacceptable.

‘The whole of the NHS is struggling at the moment and one of the biggest problems is the shortage of carers. They aren’t paid enough and no one wants to do the job.’

Stephen Sheldon, service manager for the Welsh Ambulance Service (WAS) in North Wales, extended his apologies to Mrs Davies for her long wait. He invited the family to contact the service directly to raise their concerns.

NEWCASTLE: Royal College of Nursing (RCN) General Secretary Pat Cullen, centre, joins members of the RCN on the picket line outside the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle today

NEWCASTLE: Royal College of Nursing (RCN) General Secretary Pat Cullen, centre, joins members of the RCN on the picket line outside the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle today

BIRMINGHAM: Members of the RCN take to the picket line outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham this morning

BIRMINGHAM: Members of the RCN take to the picket line outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham this morning

Today's Royal College of Nursing strikes follow industrial action taken by the union last week

Today’s Royal College of Nursing strikes follow industrial action taken by the union last week

This graph shows the Royal College of Nursing's demands for a 5 per cent above inflation pay rise for the bands covered by its membership which includes healthcare assistants and nurses. Estimates are based on NHS Employers data

This graph shows the Royal College of Nursing’s demands for a 5 per cent above inflation pay rise for the bands covered by its membership which includes healthcare assistants and nurses. Estimates based on NHS Employers data

This map shows the hospitals where the Royal College of Nursing held strikes last Thursday and are striking again today

This map shows the hospitals where the Royal College of Nursing held strikes last Thursday and are striking again today

Poll

Should nurses get a 19 PERCENT pay rise?

  • Yes 7180 votes
  • No 15674 votes
  • No, but ministers should meet in the middle 5301 votes
  • Undecided 216 votes

He said: ‘Winter pressures coupled with a surge in demand, staff sickness levels and the wider system pressures across NHS Wales has inhibited our ability to respond. Extensive hospital handover delays are well documented and has led to some very long waits for patients.

‘On the 17 and 18 December, we spent over 1,600 hours outside hospitals across Wales, waiting to hand patients over to our hospital colleagues.. 563 of those hours were lost outside hospitals in North Wales.

‘We are working with partners across Wales to mitigate the pressures as best we can. The public can help us by only calling 999 in a serious or life-threatening emergency so that our resources are available for those who need us most.’

The WAS is urging the public to plan ahead as industrial action hits the service in the coming days. The walk-out will put additional pressure on the ambulance service, said Mr Sheldon. 

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Tomorrow, ambulance workers including paramedics, control room workers and technicians will also walk out in England and Wales, with health chiefs warning this represents the most serious threat to date. 

In some instances, unions have agreed to allow staff to attend only life-threatening incidents where a person’s heart has stopped or they are not breathing.

Others say it will be down to individual members to decide if they wish to offer a more comprehensive service.

This means more people than expected will be forced to make their own way to hospital in an emergency and makes it more likely that they will die or be left with serious disabilities as a result of health emergencies which happen during tomorrow’s walkouts.

Mr Quince said that he would be clear with the trade unions that there should be a ‘minimum service level’, adding that he was ‘concerned’ about Wednesday’s planned action.

He added: ‘Where people are planning any risky activity, I would strongly encourage them not to do so.’

He told anyone with chest pains on Wednesday to call 999 despite the strike action by ambulance workers.

‘If you have chest pains, then phone 999. If it is not life-threatening, then it’s really important that people call NHS 111 or NHS 111 online,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Asked if having chest pains is an emergency and that a patient could get an ambulance, Mr Quince said: ‘If you have chest pains, call 999 and the expectation is, and I’ve been really clear with you, I don’t think that there is any paramedic, ambulance technician, anyone working in our NHS, whether they’re on a picket line or not, that would not respond to a 999 call where somebody has chest pains and there is a threat of a heart attack.

‘Call 999, a clinician will assess that call and then consider the appropriate action whether that’s an ambulance, whether it’s community services, whether it’s NHS 111.’

The Government has drafted in hundreds of members of the Armed Forces to help cover the ambulance strikes.

Armed Forces personnel will also cover striking Border Force staff during their walkouts from December 23 to Boxing Day, and again from December 28 to New Year’s Eve.

During the 999 strike, the military will not drive ambulances on blue lights for the most serious calls but are expected to provide support on other calls. 

Mr Quince told BBC Breakfast: ‘The Armed Forces personnel, who I’m hugely grateful to for their support in this endeavour, around 750 members of Armed Forces personnel are supporting trusts.

‘What they won’t be able to do is break the law — so driving through red lights, they won’t be able to turn blue lights on. 

Britain's strike hell continues into Christmas

Britain’s strike hell continues into Christmas

Calendar shows the series of strikes set for the next two weeks and beyond

Calendar shows the series of strikes set for the next two weeks and beyond

‘They will be there to drive ambulances in a support capacity for individual trusts.’

But he insisted that military staff will still ‘play a hugely important role in supporting paramedics and ambulance staff in getting people to emergency departments’.

Mr Barclay is meeting unions this afternoon to discuss preparations for Wednesday’s strike but it is understood he will not discuss pay.

The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman said: ‘He’s hoping for a constructive discussion ahead of these planned ambulance strikes.

‘He’s concerned that some union officials still haven’t confirmed what they will cover with regards to emergency calls with their talks with trusts so far.

‘We are conscious that the contingency plans we have can only do so much, so he will continue to urge them to honour their commitment to provide responses to life-threatening emergency calls.’

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Rachel Harrison, a national secretary at the GMB trade union, told MPs that unless the Health Secretary is willing to talk about pay, ambulance strikes will go ahead.

She said: ‘Unless the Secretary of State is willing to talk to us about pay today, those strikes are set to go ahead.

‘Make us an offer on pay we can take back to our members.’

Asked what will happen if the Government does not move on pay, she said: ‘Our members will be the ones that will decide… We will continue to say to the Government, ‘our door is open to talk about pay’.

‘Our members will be the ones to decide on any pay offer that’s made and if no pay offer is forthcoming, we will continue to have that conversation next year as we head towards the next round of pay discussions as well.’

Regarding Wednesday’s strike, she said ‘life and limb’ cover will be provided.

Ambulance responses are split into categories, with category 1 being the most life-threatening such as cardiac arrest, while category 2 covers conditions like stroke, heart attack and sepsis.

Regarding exemptions for other categories, she said: ‘Most agreements have now been signed off and we’re doing our role in communicating to our members what they are and encouraging them to adhere to the exemptions that have been put in place.’

Ms Harrison said that cover will vary by service, but she added: ‘We will do everything within our power to ensure that communities are safe during this action. The Government has to play their part, they have to come to the table and talk to us.’

BIRMINGHAM: Striking nurses carrying an 'Enough Is Enough' banner picket outside Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham today

BIRMINGHAM: Striking nurses carrying an ‘Enough Is Enough’ banner picket outside Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham today

A nurse holds up a sign reading 'I'd rather be nursing but this is important' on the picket line outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) General Secretary Pat Cullen (right) hugs a nurse as she joins members of the RCN on the picket line outside the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle

Left: A nurse holds up a sign reading ‘I’d rather be nursing but this is important’ on the picket line outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. Right: RCN general secretary Pat Cullen hugs a nurse on the picket line outside the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle

Meanwhile, the head of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) today urged the Prime Minister to do the ‘decent thing’ and negotiate with the union.

The union has organised walk-outs at around a quarter of hospitals and community teams in England, alongside all trusts in Northern Ireland and all but one health board in Wales.

Pat Cullen, RCN boss, said: ‘I want to say to the Prime Minister this morning, please step in now and do the decent thing on behalf of every patient and member of the public of this country.

‘But please do the decent thing also for nursing staff – get round the table and start to talk to me on their behalf.

‘That’s the only respectful and decent thing to do, and let’s bring these strikes to a conclusion.’

The RCN has threatened further strikes in January if the Government does not meet its demands for a 19 per cent pay rise for its members, something ministers have said is unaffordable.

Although, it has indicated it would accept a lower offer.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today denied the Government has ‘tried to skimp’ on nurses’ pay demands. 

During the strike today, the NHS will be running a bank holiday-style service in many areas as thousands of operations and procedures are cancelled and rescheduled. 

The RCN has said it will still staff chemotherapy, emergency cancer services, dialysis, critical care units, neonatal and paediatric intensive care, as well as some other services.

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