Mothers-to-be who go into labor during Wednesday’s paramedics’ strike would have to travel to hospital on their own as there will be “no guarantee” that paramedics will be able to reach them at home, London’s health boards have warned.
Barts Health NHS expects its services to face unprecedented pressure Tuesday to Thursday as drivers of the London Ambulance Service (LAS) stage a strike.
The Trust, which manages five hospitals in east London, including The Royal London in Whitechapel, said in a statement: ‘Our hospitals will effectively operate on high alert for three days either side of the London action. Ambulance Service.
“Our maternity services will operate as usual, although we encourage people expecting to give birth on Wednesday to plan ahead for their hospital stay.”
The Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Trust has warned the mother to reconsider planning for the home birth because paramedics are unlikely to be able to attend if there are complications.
A statement to mothers-to-be read: “On the day of the strike, there is no guarantee that an ambulance or paramedic will be able to come to your home in the event of home birth complications.
“Days around this date may also be affected and ambulances may take longer than usual to reach homes.
“Your safety and that of your child is our top priority. In view of this, we strongly recommend that if you go into labor on the day of the strike, you deliver at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital or West Middlesex University Hospital maternity facility.”
It comes as nurses at four London hospitals staged a consecutive Tuesday strike over pay and conditions.
Barts nurses are not taking industrial action, but the latest figures show its hospitals are under extreme pressure.
More than one in ten ambulances that arrived at the Trust on 11 December were delayed by over an hour in delivering patients to the emergency room.
Other NHS trusts across the capital have also issued warnings about strikes hitting the NHS this week.
The Royal Free London Trust said its emergency departments will be “unbelievably busy” on Wednesday and urged patients not to attend unless their conditions were “urgent or life-threatening”.
Ambulance workers at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust are planning a strike on 21 December.
The trust said maternity services would continue but that ambulances would only respond if there was “an immediate risk to life”.
On Monday night, LAS said Londoners were “unlikely to get an ambulance” during the strikes unless there was an immediate threat to their lives.
Professor Julian Redhead, national clinical director for urgent and emergency care at NHS England, told the Commons Health and Social Care Committee on Tuesday that ‘demand and flow’ is the main problem facing the health service.
He told MPs: “Demand for our emergency services is at phenomenal levels, especially right now.
“We have seen increases in flu, we have seen increases in Covid hospitalizations and the cold snap – we know cold weather is also associated with health issues and we have seen increases from those as well.
“Our employment levels are higher now than most times of the year. So we’re working towards around 98% occupancy in our funds.”
Describing the challenges of the whole system, he added: ‘Definitely that means our response times are challenging for the ambulance service at the moment.’
Dr John Martin, president of the College of Paramedics, said wait times had lengthened.
He said that, over the past five years, demand has increased by 18% in England, with a figure of 50% for first-class calls.
“So we’re seeing a sicker population calling us more often.”