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Ambulance worker slams panic buyers as unions demands NHS staff get priority access to fuel

NHS staff and other key workers MUST have priority access to fuel amid fears patients are being put at risk, leading unions have warned.

Earlier today, an ambulance driver told how she was verbally abused on a petrol station forecourt after she was unable to fill up the emergency vehicle for two days.

Becky Hough, 24, slammed panic buyers as she was left driving around all weekend in a desperate hunt for fuel, but only found empty pumps.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said that as pumps run dry “there is a real risk that NHS staff won’t be able to do their jobs”.

Unison called on ministers to use emergency powers to “designate fuel stations for the sole use of key workers”.

And the Royal College of Nursing warned that the fuel supply problems could see patient care compromised as it backed calls for health and care workers to be prioritised.

It comes amid reports of doctors being unable to get to work due to the fuel crisis.

Miss Hough, an apprentice emergency care assistant – who works with paramedics – tweeted about her ordeal.

She was hit with a barrage of criticism saying her ambulance has a big fuel tank and she shouldn’t have got so low.

Becky Hough was driving around for two days as she neared an empty tank but found queues on forecourts and petrol stations already sold out

She was hit with a barrage of criticism saying her ambulance has a big fuel tank and she shouldn't have got so low

She was hit with a barrage of criticism saying her ambulance has a big fuel tank and she shouldn’t have got so low

Others said emergency services shouldn’t be using normal petrol stations and should have their own pumps.

Becky works for Bristol Ambulance Emergency Medical Services – which provides independent ambulances to private patients, private health care providers and NHS.

Ms Hough, of Basingstoke, Hampshire – whose tweet got over 75,000 likes and retweets – said: ‘To everyone that panicked and went to fuel their cars when it wasn’t needed, well done.

‘On shift on an emergency ambulance, low on fuel and struggling to find somewhere that isn’t sold out.’ 

The incident comes as London mayor Sadiq Khan said some care workers, NHS staff and taxi drivers are unable to fill up at petrol stations. 

She started looking for fuel on Friday and was only finally able to fill her tank on Sunday afternoon when a BP garage let her use their reserves.

But when she finally got some she said was verbally abused and sworn at by other angry motorists.

She revealed on Twitter: ‘Finally. A BP garage that has let us use the reserves.

‘However whilst fuelling we received verbal abuse from the public driving past, horns being honked and many hand gesture.’ 

He tweets sparked a furious response online, with some accusing her struggle to find fuel as her fault.

One said: ‘That vehicle must get about 500 miles on a full tank, how do you even get close to running out of fuel?’

Ms Hough replied: ‘Due to the demand on the ambulance service at the moment, we are spread far and wide.

Becky Hough

Becky, pictured, works for Bristol Ambulance Emergency Medical Services

Becky (pictured) works for Bristol Ambulance Emergency Medical Services – which provides independent ambulances to private patients, private health care providers and NHS.

‘We could be the closest ambulance to a call, yet still be 30 plus miles away.

‘We start every shift with a full tank of fuel. Yesterday we averaged 300 miles in a 12 hour shift.’  

Dave Piccirillo added: ‘Not defending the panickers here, but ambulances ought to have their own petrol stations/reserves.’ 

Ms Hough added: ‘They ought to yeah I agree. And I’m sure there are ambulance stations out there that do.

‘However my station is very small, with only three ambulances running out of it, and we do not. Instead we have fuel cards.’

Becky's tweet about nearly running out of fuel sparked a huge response online

Becky’s tweet about nearly running out of fuel sparked a huge response online

Another – called Laura – said: ‘I thought petrol stations had to save an emergency supply for emergency services

‘Is that not real?

A third – called Helen – added: ‘Why the flip aren’t essential services being given priority?’

Patricia Marquis, director for England at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Nursing staff do valuable work, often travelling long distances to get to work or see their patients in the community.

“Health and care services, already struggling with widespread staffing shortages, cannot afford to lose any more staff because they’re unable to travel.

“We already know some nursing staff are warning their employers they may not be able to attend tomorrow to ensure shifts can be safely staffed.

“In light of these supply problems, health and care workers need to be a priority or patient care will be compromised.”

Dr Julia Grace Patterson, chief executive of the group which has 1,700 members, said: “Doctors and other healthcare workers cannot care for patients if they cannot get to work.

“I am hearing from many today who have spent the weekend unsuccessfully trying to find petrol.

“Our Health Secretary Sajid Javid has been critical of telephone consultations recently – he clearly believes face-to-face appointments are necessary.

“We therefore need to know urgently what the Government’s plan is to ensure that all NHS staff can reach their workplaces safely during this fuel crisis.

“Doctors are desperately concerned about patients and the Government must take responsibility and find a solution.”

Professor Claire Anderson, president of the society, said: “Pharmacies are still getting deliveries of medicines and people should order and collect their prescription in the usual way.

“As normal, pharmacists are working with patients to ensure they get the medicines they need. We’re not aware that the problems with fuel supplies are stopping patients getting their medicines.

“If you have any concerns then please speak to your local pharmacist and their team, who will be able to help and reassure you.”

 

People push as a car, which has run out of petrol, the final few meters on to the forecourt as vehicles queue to refill at a Texaco fuel station in south London this morning

Today London Mayor Sadiq Khan said some care workers, NHS staff and taxi drivers are unable to fill up at petrol stations, London mayor Sadiq Khan has said.

London’s bus network has enough fuel but the ‘shambolic situation’ has meant that shortages are hitting petrol stations across the capital.

Mr Khan told Sky News: ‘We’re hearing stories across London of petrol stations running out of petrol.

‘Our emergency services and our buses have enough and they have some in reserve, but we are hearing stories about care workers, people who work in hospitals who need their car to go to hospital, black cab drivers, private hire vehicle drivers not being able to fuel up and provide the services that our city needs but also to enable people to get to work.

Motorists queued for more than a mile to get to a petrol station with fuel in West Norwood, South London, yesterday

Motorists queued for more than a mile to get to a petrol station with fuel in West Norwood, South London, yesterday

‘We are working with the DfT (Department for Transport) to do what we can to make sure we have fuel being provided particularly for those key workers across our city.’

There has been a predictable shortage of haulage drivers since Brexit happened and the pandemic affected the training of new drivers, according to Mr Khan, and these factors have helped to create the problem.

His comments came as it is said the Prime Minister is considering whether to call in soldiers to deliver fuel to petrol stations as pumps ran dry after days of panic-buying.

Several reports suggested that Boris Johnson on Monday could take the drastic step of sending in the Army to drive oil tankers as ‘frenzied buying’ added to fuel-supply issues caused by a lack of HGV drivers.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has refused to rule out requesting military assistance, after queues for the pumps continued across the country at the weekend.

Mr Shapps has already backed down over his reluctance to import foreign labour to solve the HGV driver shortage, by creating 5,000 three-month visas to bring in extra hauliers to address delivery pressures.

The Cabinet minister told the BBC the move would fix the ‘100 to 200’ fuel tanker driver shortfall, as he urged motorists to be ‘sensible’ and only fill up when necessary to help alleviate the queues.   


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