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Elderly people who fall won’t be able to get ambulance during strikes, says Steve Barclay – UK politics live | Politics

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Elderly people who fall won’t be able to get ambulance during strikes, says Steve Barclay

Good morning. Steve Barclay, the health secretary, has been doing the morning interview round this morning, mostly taking questions about the strikes that are about to hit the NHS. Mark Harper, the transport secretary, will be giving evidence to the Commons transport committee soon, and he will face a grilling about the rail strikes. And at 12pm Rishi Sunak will be up for PMQs where it is almost certain that strikes will be on the agenda too. This may be the pattern for much of winter.

Barclay was asked what services will be operating when ambulance staff in England and Wales go on strike on Wednesday 21 December, and he confirmed the message in the Daily Telegraph’s splash – that elderly people who have a fall will probably have to get to hospital on their own.

Barclay said that, while the strike was on, ambulance staff would respond to life-threatening incidents – known as a category (cat) one calls. And he said that tomorrow there would be a meeting to discuss how ambulance staff would respond to category two callouts, which cover heart attacks, strokes, epilepsy and burns. He told Times Radio:

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We’ve got further talks with the officials tomorrow on what are called the derogations – which bits of the service that they will offer.

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They’ve said that they will continue to offer life-threatening service, so that’s the cat ones.

There’s a question in terms of whether they will cover all the cat twos – those are the emergency responses to things like heart attacks and stroke – so it is hugely important that those are also covered.

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But when asked if elderly people who suffered a fall would be able to get an ambulance, Barclay indicated that they wouldn’t. Falls were usually category three calls, and “at the moment the trade unions are saying those things wouldn’t be covered,” he said.

Barclay admitted this would put the system under “huge pressure”. He said:

Of course, we can look at what contingency plans we can put in place, but they’re never going to cover the same amount as having 3,000 ambulances on the day, which is roughly what we have on a typical day. There is a risk if we can’t get ambulances to people.

I will post more from his interviews shortly.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: Mark Harper, the transport secretary, gives evidence to the Commons transport committee.

9.45am: Qirjako Qirko, the Albanian ambassador to the UK, gives evidence to the Commons home affairs committee.

12pm: Rishi Sunak faces Keir Starmer at PMQs.

After 12.45pm: MPs debate the remaining stages of the financial services and markets bill.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions and, if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com

Key events

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Grahame Morris (Lab) is asking the questions now. He says legislating for minimum rail standards during strikes would be “hugely controversial”.

Earlier in the hearing Harper said there would be no legislation on matters like pavement parking and e-scooters in this session of parliament. Yet the government intends to legislate on something much more controversial, Morris says.

Harper says Morris’s question has highlighted the point he made earlier, about there being no cross-party support for this move. (See 10.12am.)

Harper says Network Rail is considering whether to postpone engineering work planned for the Christmas period because of the RMT strike action. He says work worth £120m was planned.

Harper says legislating for minimum rail services on strike days ‘not a solution’ to current dispute

Back at the transport committee, Mark Harper, the transport secretary, is now being asked about rail strikes.

Chris Loder (Con) asks when the government will pass the legislation it has promised to require the rail unions to maintain a minimum service when they are on strike.

Harper says he cannot say when MPs will vote on it.

But he also says the bill is “not a solution to dealing with the industrial action we are seeing at the moment”.

And he says it would not improve rail services on non-strike days. He wants a new settlement that does improve the service generally.

Q: Are you saying the bill would not be valuable?

Harper says it may be valuable in the future. But he repeats the point about how it would not help with the current strike.

Q: Do you no longer intend to pass the bill rapidly?

Harper says the government normally passes legislation quickly when there is cross-party agreement. That is not the case here, he says.

Mark Harper at the Commons transport committee
Mark Harper at the Commons transport committee Photograph: HoC

Barclay rejects calls for government to improve pay offer to NHS staff

Here are some more lines from Steve Barclay’s morning interview round.

  • Barclay, the health secretary, rejected calls for the government to improve the pay offer to NHS staff. When he was asked on the Today programme repeatedly if he was willing to offer more, he replied: “No. We have an independent pay review body that looks at that. That is the position that we have in terms of pay.” When pressed again on this, he just stressed his commitment to the independent pay review process – even thought it was pointed out to him that the government could offer more than the pay review bodies recommend. As HuffPost UK reports in its story on this, Barclay also insisted the dispute was not just about pay.

You can see, actually, the fact that the prime minister has taken a very strong stand in terms of the priority of getting inflation down.

I think it’s important that we listen to colleagues, that is our parliamentary process. It’s important that we do these things with local consent.

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Gareth Quarry, a former Conservative donor who recently defected to Labour, has launched a scathing attack on his former party, saying their response to the allegations about the Tory peer Michelle Mone has only strengthened his determination to help oust them from office. My colleague Kiran Stacey has the story here.

Transport secretary Mark Harper tells MPs he was ‘disappointed’ RMT turned down ‘improved offer’

Mark Harper, the transport secretary, is giving evidence to the Commons transport committee.

He starts with a statement about the rail strikes. The RMT was given an “improved offer”, he says. He is “disappointed” they turned it down.

He says it is not just a pay dispute; it is about reform.

He says over the past two years the public has put £31bn into the rail industry.

Rail staff were not furloughed, and did not lose pay during Covid, he says.

But he says passengers numbers are only 80% of what they were before the pandemic.

He says he would still urge the unions to keep talking, and to call off their strikes.

The government will “do what we can” to encourage employers and unions to keep talking, he says.

Elderly people who fall won’t be able to get ambulance during strikes, says Steve Barclay

Good morning. Steve Barclay, the health secretary, has been doing the morning interview round this morning, mostly taking questions about the strikes that are about to hit the NHS. Mark Harper, the transport secretary, will be giving evidence to the Commons transport committee soon, and he will face a grilling about the rail strikes. And at 12pm Rishi Sunak will be up for PMQs where it is almost certain that strikes will be on the agenda too. This may be the pattern for much of winter.

Barclay was asked what services will be operating when ambulance staff in England and Wales go on strike on Wednesday 21 December, and he confirmed the message in the Daily Telegraph’s splash – that elderly people who have a fall will probably have to get to hospital on their own.

Barclay said that, while the strike was on, ambulance staff would respond to life-threatening incidents – known as a category (cat) one calls. And he said that tomorrow there would be a meeting to discuss how ambulance staff would respond to category two callouts, which cover heart attacks, strokes, epilepsy and burns. He told Times Radio:

We’ve got further talks with the officials tomorrow on what are called the derogations – which bits of the service that they will offer.

They’ve said that they will continue to offer life-threatening service, so that’s the cat ones.

There’s a question in terms of whether they will cover all the cat twos – those are the emergency responses to things like heart attacks and stroke – so it is hugely important that those are also covered.

But when asked if elderly people who suffered a fall would be able to get an ambulance, Barclay indicated that they wouldn’t. Falls were usually category three calls, and “at the moment the trade unions are saying those things wouldn’t be covered,” he said.

Barclay admitted this would put the system under “huge pressure”. He said:

Of course, we can look at what contingency plans we can put in place, but they’re never going to cover the same amount as having 3,000 ambulances on the day, which is roughly what we have on a typical day. There is a risk if we can’t get ambulances to people.

I will post more from his interviews shortly.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: Mark Harper, the transport secretary, gives evidence to the Commons transport committee.

9.45am: Qirjako Qirko, the Albanian ambassador to the UK, gives evidence to the Commons home affairs committee.

12pm: Rishi Sunak faces Keir Starmer at PMQs.

After 12.45pm: MPs debate the remaining stages of the financial services and markets bill.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions and, if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com

 

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