NHS staff across Derbyshire have gone on strike.
Scores of nurses, paramedics, midwives, porters and office staff downed tools for four hours this morning in the first national walkout over pay for 32 years.
VIDEO: Press the play button to hear the views from the picket line
Members of several unions including Unite and Unison waved their placards between 7am and 11am.
Employees will now continue industrial action for the following four days by ‘working to rule’, meaning they will not work unpaid overtime and take rest breaks.
NHS staff are angry the Government has denied them a one per cent pay rise.
Outside Chesterfield Royal Hospital, about 50 members of staff joined the picket line to demand a fairer pay offer.
Pam Shepherd, Unison regional organiser for Derbyshire, said: “Our message to the Government is simple: our staff deserve better.
“We’ve had a lot of support here and I’d like to thank the public for their backing.”
Bosses at the Calow hospital said plans were in place to protect patients over the next week.
Chief executive Gavin Boyle said: “By voluntarily letting us know in advance if they intend to strike, our staff have enabled us to put plans in place to ensure services will be safe. We really appreciate this co-operation and commitment to our patients.
“Any industrial action will not impact our patients’ safety or put them at risk.”
Sue Noyes, chief executive of East Midlands Ambulance Service, said: “We recognise the right of our staff to take industrial action in response to this national issue and we respect and understand that their decision to strike is a difficult one to make.”
The organisation was able to respond to life-threatening emergencies during the action. However, it faced “significant pressure” in dealing with non life-threatening calls
Unison’s general secretary Dave Prentis said: “This Government’s treatment of NHS workers has angered them and this anger has now turned into action.
“Refusing to pay them even a paltry one per cent shows what the Government really thinks about its health workers. Inflation has continued to rise since 2011 and the value of NHS pay has fallen by around 12 per cent.
“We know health workers don’t take strike action lightly or often. The last action over pay was 32 years ago.
“But we also know a demoralised and demotivated workforce isn’t good for patients.”
A Government spokesman said: “NHS staff are our greatest asset and we’ve increased the NHS budget to pay for thousands more clinical staff since 2010, including more than 1,700 more midwives.
“We want to protect these increases and cannot afford a pay rise on top of increments - which disproportionately reward the highest earners - without risking frontline jobs.
“We remain keen to meet with the unions to discuss how we can work together to make the NHS pay system fairer.”