UNISON response to the introduction of National ambulance vehicle specification for English NHS ambulance trusts


On 1 April 2019, NHS Improvement introduced new national ambulance vehicle specifications and all new ambulances purchased need to be in line with these.  

More information on the specifications can be foundhere.

UNISON recognises that there is too much variation between ambulances vehicles in the English ambulance services and a more joined up approach would be beneficial to the NHS. However, we are concerned that as part of the new vehicle specifications NHS improvement will be mandating that new ambulances purchased from 1 April 2019 need to be van conversions.

NHS Improvement has stated the vehicle specifications are meant to be high level in order to allow trusts to continue to make detailed design decisions at a local level. However, this same degree of flexibility will not be afforded to decisions relating to the types of ambulance vehicles Trusts can choose. NHS improvement did state in their consultation response that derogation from the national specifications is possible but only under limited circumstances.

The financial reasons for choosing a van conversion over a box conversion ambulance have been well documented by NHS Improvement. UNISON believes that similar weight should be placed on the working environment this provides for staff and which ambulance is the best clinical space for patients. Ambulance trusts shouldn’t be restricted to a particular conversion type especially if there are other cost efficient options that better meet the needs of patients and staff.

UNISON was initially disappointed that there was no trade union involvement in formulating the vehicle specifications and that engagement only started to take place when they were being consulted on before Christmas.

NHS Improvement has subsequently given a commitment that there will be trade union involvement in the national group that will influence the future vehicle specifications.

UNISON will be playing a key role in this group and will make the case for a vehicle design that provides the best and safest working environment for UNISON members in the ambulance service.

Bus lane fines for ambulance crews must end, says UNISON

Drivers being hit with penalties for rushing patients to hospital

Ambulance crews are being hit with fines for using empty bus lanes, says UNISON today (Wednesday).

Many UK cities are banning ambulances from public transport lanes when it’s not a 999 emergency, according to the union.

Many ambulance drivers, who use the lanes to avoid traffic and speed up journeys for patients needing vital care, have received penalties, delegates attending UNISON’s annual health conference in Bournemouth heard.

Patients who are in discomfort or need vital treatment such as dialysis could end up stuck in traffic congestion if the fines continue, says UNISON.

The clampdown also puts further pressure on the NHS as people miss appointments because the ambulance they’re travelling in is caught in city centre gridlock.

The picture is mixed, the conference heard, with individual towns and cities across the UK adopting different approaches.

This lack of consistency can cause confusion for crews moving between areas, says UNISON.

Richard Bentley from UNISON’s Yorkshire Ambulance Service Branch said he can use bus lanes in Leeds but not in other cities.

The paramedic said: “If I leave Leeds and head to Bradford or York, I’m subject to a £60 fine. That’s if I forget I’m not allowed to use their bus lanes. Several colleagues have fallen foul of this and there’s nothing we can do.”

Some councils have dropped fines following appeals. However, drivers’ time is then wasted on paperwork, which could be better used responding to calls, says UNISON.

UNISON North East Ambulance Service branch secretary Joel Byers said: “If ambulance services use taxis to transport patients, those vehicles can use bus lanes yet ambulances designed for that very purpose will be fined.”

UNISON North West Ambulance Service branch secretary Jeff Gorman,said fines are a widespread problem across Greater Manchester and are rarely waived.

He said: “You’d expect a bit of common sense from councils. But they still issue fines if colleagues use bus lanes during restricted hours.”

UNISON is calling for bus routes nationwide to be available for ambulances at all times and campaigning for councils to drop restrictions.

National ambulance officer Colm Porter said: “Crews need to get patients to hospital quickly but not every call requires lights and sirens.

“Councils must stop leaving crews out of pocket for putting patients first, and being taken out of action because they then get stuck in traffic jams.”

UNISON takes HCPC fees campaign to Parliament

UNISON has taken its campaign against the proposed 18 per cent hike in registration fees by the HCPC to MPs and peers. 

UNISON is continuing with its campaign against the proposed massive fees increase by the Health and Care Professions Council.
This week UNISON sent out a parliamentary briefing to all MPs and peers and asked them to add their signatures to a letter to the HCPC chair asking the HCPC not to impose the fees hike.
The HCPC proposed an 18 per cent increase in its registration fees in a consultation in December 2018. UNISON held a survey of HCPC-registered members at the time: 99 per cent said they did not agree with the increase.
The HCPC has a council meeting next week where they will make a decision about the fees increase and we will send the MPs’ letter to them before then.
UNISON has also sent a letter directly to all of the council members of the HCPC ahead of their decision-making meeting.
Members can keep up-to-date on the latest news and activities in our campaign at: http://www.unison.org.uk/at-work/health-care/key-issues/stop-health-care-professions-council-fees-hike/.

AGM 2019






The 2019 Annual General Meeting of the Branch will take place in three parts to give more members the opportunity to participate. Dates, times and venues are as follows and you are entitled to come along to any one of the meetings. Please remember, you can only vote at one meeting.


  • Cumbria & Lancashire Area. 5th February 2019. 1.30pm Start. Venue: Penrith Golf Club, Salkeld Road, Penrith, CA11 8SG
  • Cheshire & Mersey Area. 6th February 2019. 1.30pm Start. Venue: Birchwood Golf Club, Kelvin Close, Warrington, WA3 7PB
  • Manchester Area. 7th February 2019. 1.30pm Start. Venue: Unison Regional Centre, Arena Point, Manchester M3 1UN


Contested nominations for Branch Officer (Secretary and Chair) Positions will be decided by a postal vote of the membership. Members at each local meeting will also vote for the Area Committee Representatives, Stewards and Health & Safety Representatives. Please make every effort to attend one of these important meetings. This is your chance to meet your local and regional UNISON representatives. Find out what’s happening in your area of NWAS. Come and discuss important service and conditions issues. Hear about all of Unison’s work and achievements on your behalf.

We Look Forward to Seeing You

Click the link below if you would like to print off the poster:

AGM Poster 2019  (PDF format)

AGM Poster 2019  (Microsoft word format)

Paramedic Banding Review/Appeal Update – 25th July 2018

We have been notified that the independent national job evaluation panel that met in summer 2017 will reconvene on the 15th October 2018. A national consistency panel will also meet on the 15th October and the 16th October 2018
The terms of reference are the TOR that all 3 unions agreed to in 2017. However, additions have been made to reflect Option 1 and these are included in Appendix A & B.
Appendix B states that the review panel must check their provisional evaluation on both a factor by factor and total score basis against national profiles provided (item 6 in Appendix A). This is a “sense check” rather than a consistency check as it is acknowledged that the posts were held not to match these profiles by the original matching panel. This complies with Chapter 13 2.4 of the Job Evaluation Handbook 2016. This panel will NOT be undertaking a new review

Unison believes that the Banding outcomes in all four legacy Trust areas in 2004 were incorrect and that for certain factors we were underscored. It is for that reason that the appeals/reviews were lodged. We have provided evidence to support this, examples include Pre-hospital Thrombolysis documents, external jugular cannulation and needle thoracentesis certificates and certificate of autonomous practice.

While we totally respect the opinion and views of the action being taken by the GMB we believe that the only way forward is to agree a process within the NHS Job Evaluation Scheme. Option 1 was the mandate given to us by our members, and this has been achieved and concessions made.

UNISON Response to OpenDemocracy Article on Pay

Dear all,

You may have seen an article on OpenDemocracy commenting on the NHS pay deal. https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/nhs-staff-discover-they-will-get-hundreds-of-pounds-less-than-they-thought

I (Sara Gorton) wanted to take the opportunity to make totally clear that it is deeply misleading and in parts untrue.

UNISON officers and the press team spent time yesterday (Wednesday 18) briefing the author of the blog. We are disappointed that the author chose not to use the background material and guidance that we gave her.

As you can imagine, this has generated a lot of calls to UNISONdirect and I imagine it will generate questions for you.

Claim one:
“NHS Employers, the official body in charge of NHS staff, has just published the new 2018/9 pay rates – and they do not appear to be the same as the 2018/9 pay figures staff were pointed to before they voted on the deal. In fact, averaged across all pay bands and scales, they appear to award only around half the pay rise from April 2018 that many staff may have been expecting, according to OurNHS’s calculations.”

This is not true. The figures used in the consultation are the ones that are being implemented. It would have been a fair comment to say that the employer pay charts are confusing (it’s a sentiment we share), but this claim goes further than that despite UNISON briefing the author.

As described during the consultation, in materials such as the pay calculator and the pay chart cards that we provided to activists and organisers, the exact timing of the increases depends on the anniversary date for the individual member of staff.

This is because this pay agreement is not a pay award, it is a total restructure of the pay structure. This involves moving away from the existing pay point system.

We are:
• Immediately introducing an above-living wage rate as the lowest salary in the NHS
• Increasing the value of the full rate for the job by 6.5% over three years for staff in bands 2-8c.
• Reducing the amount of time that it takes existing staff to reach that full rate for the job – we think that about 85% of existing staff will be at the top of their band by the end of the three years, from 50% currently.
• Increasing starting salaries in all bands

Additionally, we secured a clause in the framework agreement to prevent any detriment – if an unusual and unpredicted situation occurs were a member of staff would lose out, we have contractual protection for them.

Claim two
“The NHS employers jumbled up two different things in the pay calculators. One was the long-awaited (not very big) cost of living increase across the NHS. The other, usually bigger part of the pay rise people were told they would get turns out to be the normal pay increase that most NHS employees receive every year anyway, in recognition of their growing experience. This is known as their ‘increment’.

All the trade union materials clearly said “This shows the combination of pay awards, reform and incremental progression.”

Claim three
“A bigger problem arises because the dates on which they will be received are very different. While many staff thought that the whole new salary would be back-dated to the start of the financial year in April, in fact, only the relatively small cost of living increase will be. Their annual increment – usually the bigger part of the increase – will only come in on the anniversary of when they started with the NHS: which could be many months later. The result is that many staff will be earning hundreds – or even thousands – of pounds less this year than they had understood when they voted for the package.”

It is fair comment that the pay agreement is quite complex. However, annual increments are well understood in the NHS and an existing part of the system. The joint trade union pay calculator materials clearly said “This shows the combination of pay awards, reform and incremental progression,” and staff are used to the separation of 1 April pay uplifts and their main pay increase on their date of appointment. This pay agreement provides gain to staff below the top of their bands by getting them to the full rate for the job faster, and this was made really clear during the consultation.

Claim four
“The ‘increment’ is no longer automatic or definite – in future, it will depend on assessment, though there will be a transitional period (this is still under negotiation, OurNHS understands).”

This is misleading. This is not the case for existing staff in transition. This will apply in the new pay structure, and does not apply to the figures in the pay calculator, for example.

The broad rule for the future is that if you benefit from the restructure (e.g. you are a new starter and you start two pay points higher than one of your colleagues did) you will have to sit on that pay point for more than a year (whereas previously you’d have been on lower pay for two years before reaching that point).

Claim five
“Several raised concerns that these new rates – combined with forthcoming cuts to anti-social hours payments and other enhancements to basic pay – means that they might have actually been better off, overall, completely rejecting this pay deal.”

This is untrue. There are no cuts to unsocial hours earnings for any staff. There are some changes to the way unsocial hours are calculated in bands 1-3 (to prevent “leapfrogging” on nights and weekends) but no-one has any pay cut.

There is a “no detriment” clause in the agreement. If anyone can find any example of a member that is worse off in pay they should contact their union rep as soon as possible – the member of staff is contractually entitled to not suffer any detriment.

Finally, trade unions have been accused of being “a little too keen to seal a deal.”

NHS trade unions have:
• Busted through the government’s hated 1% pay cap, securing £4.2 billion additional funding for staff pay
• Won the argument with the treasury that the top rate in each band is the full rate for the job, and that all staff are entitled to it – and reduced the length of time it will take staff to reach that rate
• Increased starting salaries in the NHS, lifting starting nurse and graduate pay to nearly £25,000 by the end of the agreement
• Lifted 100,000 staff out of poverty pay and onto a rate above the real living wage
• Protects equality, by making sure people receive equal pay for work of equal value

Is that everything we wanted? No. We are still fighting for things fair apprentice pay, and the 6.5% goes no way toward making up the lost years of Tory austerity pay. But UNISON’s lead committee on NHS pay, made up of NHS staff from across the country, made a judgement that this pay agreement was a start.

This deal leaves everyone better off than they were before, and puts us in a good position to build towards fighting for a real cost of living increase for all staff for 1 April 2021.

Paramedic Banding Appeal

Unison has reached an agreement with NWAS regarding a way forward for our paramedic members to have their Banding Appeal progressed.
This agreement has been made following NWAS making concessions which are now acceptable to our Branch and comply with our mandate in support of option 1.

These include

• NWAS have agreed to move their position from option 2 which was restarting the review process with a new panel to option 1 which is reconvening the original review panel who sat in 2017
• Agreement for NWAS not to provide the external review panel with any local evaluations. These will be provided to the consistency checking panel. The external review panel will complete                13.2.4 of the NHS Job Evaluation Handbook and sense check their evaluation against the national profiles only.

Unfortunately the GMB Union, who were in support of Option 1 in May 2018 have changed their view and now want an external independent enquiry and the evaluation to be completed from someone outside of the NHS. Unison cannot agree to having an independent person who is outside of the NHS evaluate the Paramedic role. Job evaluation enables jobs to be matched to national job profiles or allows trusts to evaluate jobs locally, to determine in which Agenda for Change pay band a post should sit. This is completed usually by a panel of four consisting of two managers and two union staff representatives. It was all Trade Unions who insisted in 2004 when the scheme was introduced that TU Staff Representatives are involved in determining pay bands through job evaluation.
It has been agreed that the original panel return to complete this process. The composition of this panel was again agreed by all Trade Unions last year.
Each Trade Union has submitted evidence to this panel to support our appeal that certain factors should have scored higher than they were. Examples include Pre-hospital Thrombolysis documents, external jugular cannulation and needle thoracentesis certificates and certificate of autonomous practice;
These are to support our claim that the Knowledge Training and Skills factor in particular was underscored and should have been a higher level.

We believe agreeing to a process which is outside of the NHS and the nationally agreed Job Evaluation handbook would leave the outcome open to challenge and would constitute further delays.
We have been notified that the original panel are still employed within the NHS and it is now our intention to progress this process. The Terms of Reference have been agreed with Unison and Unite and it is hoped to have an outcome by October or November 2018.

Come and discuss this and more at our new forum: https://www.nwasunison.org/forum


We would like to welcome our now ex-ATSL members onto Agenda for Change Terms and Conditions. For many months now, we have been negotiating hard and ultimately balloted our members for strike action. Just before the ballot result was announced, NWAS agreed to start all of the affected staff onto Agenda for Change Terms and Conditions from the 1st July. This demonstrates how strong UNISON is in NWAS as we were the only union able to achieve this fantastic outcome.

GMB Dispute

GMB Strike Action – Important Information

On Friday 29th June, the GMB are taking strike action for 6 hours and there will be picket lines at several sites across Cheshire, Mersey and Lancashire.

The ONLY staff who can legally take action are paid up GMB Paramedic members, everyone else should go to work as normal. UNISON members must not refuse to cross picket lines or refuse to work. If you do so, you are acting illegally and you will be subject to disciplinary action. We are getting anecdotal reports that some staff are being advised by reps that they can join in, even though they are not GMB members. This is not true.

We understand that it may not be comfortable to cross a picket line, but it is important to remember that the purpose of a picket line is to inform staff of what their dispute is and, if they are part of the union taking action, to ask them not to go into work. In this case, only GMB Paramedic members could be asked.

If you are a UNISON member you must attend work normally. If you are not a union member, you must also attend work normally. If you encounter any problems, please contact a member of the management team or UNISON representative and we will assist you to resolve any issues.

Thank you

Jeff Gorman
Branch Secretary