Police may not respond to burglaries and stabbings during NHS strikes, Met chief warns

  • Metropolitan police commissioner Mark Rowley has warned police may not be able to respond to burglaries and stabbings due extra work created striking ambulance workers

  • Thousands of ambulance staff across the UK walked out on Wednesday due to disputes with the government over pay

  • Health secretary Steve Barclay has accused them of choosing to "inflict harm" on the public

  • Read more on Rowley's remarks and strikes below

The British Metropolitan Police's Acting Deputy Commissioner, and Head of Counter Terrorism, Mark Rowley addresses the media outside New Scotland Yard in central London on March 24, 2017.

Two more people have been arrested over Wednesday's terror attack in London, police said today, also giving the attacker's birth name as Adrian Russell Ajao and appealing to the public for information about him. / AFP PHOTO / NIKLAS HALLE'N        (Photo credit should read NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP via Getty Images)
Met police commissioner Mark Rowley said police officers may be unable to tackle burgalries and stabbings due to an increased workload because of striking ambulance workers. (Getty Images)

The boss of the Metropolitan police has said crimes may be left unattended by the police this week as officers step in for ambulance workers who have gone on strike.

The government has urged the public to avoid "risky" activities and to avoid alcohol as thousands of NHS ambulance staff across the country walk out due to disputes around pay and working conditions.

On Tuesday the NHS Confederation warned it "cannot guarantee patient safety" as a result of the strikes.

Mark Rowley, Met police commissioner, on Wednesday morning told LBC that police officers may need to step in to help with mental or social issues during the walk outs.

"The thing that concerns me most, frankly, is if we have more mental health and other [social] work falling into our lap, we stop responding to burglaries and stabbings and other offences," said Rowley.

He added: "I think my officers will find it galling that they’re filling in for this work when they’re not allowed to strike - they have no desire to, they want to work and protect London - and yet they’re filling in for other public servants who are striking."

Read more: UK ambulance workers strike for higher wages amid decades-high inflation

His remarks come after Sir Tony Radakin, the head of Britain’s Armed Forces, told the Telegraph this weekend the military did not have "spare capacity" to fill in for striking ambulance workers after the Ministry of Defence said up to 2,500 military personnel are ready to help the public sector.

Rachel Harrison, GMB Union national secretary, on Wednesday said the union has “tried everything” to solve the issue of ambulance worker’s pay.

“We have tried everything to raise pay, the issue that is causing this dispute, but the government will not listen and will not talk,” she said in a statement.

Who do Britons blame for each progression calling strike action? (YouGov, 16-19 December 2022)

It comes as nurses England, Wales, and Northern Ireland stage their second walk out on Wednesday; nurses in Scotland on Wednesday rejected a pay offer from the Scottish government and said more strikes would lie ahead.

Data shows the public are largely supportive of strikers, particularly nurses and ambulance workers.

According to a recent YouGov poll, 18% of Brits blame trade unions for the ambulance strikes, while over half (54%) blaming the walk outs on the government.

The picture is similar with nurses, with 19% blaming trade unions but 56% blaming the government.

Read more: Strikes: Nurses’ union leader urges Government to ‘do the decent thing’

The public are less sympathetic to rail workers - who are staging days more strikes over the Christmas and new year period; 32% of people blame the RMT for rail strikes with 27% blaming the government.

It comes as tensions continue to mount between the government and unions, with health secretary Steve Barclay accusing unions of choosing to "inflict harm" on the public.

In parliament on Tuesday afternoon prime minister Rishi Sunak told MPs pay rises are the remit of the independent pay review body and that he did not want to worsen inflation.

"If we get it wrong and we’re still dealing with high inflation in a year’s time, that’s not going to help anybody," said Sunak.

“I don’t want to see that, I want to see things get back to normal, and that’s why having an independent pay process is an important part of us making those decisions and getting them correct.”

Watch: Public urged to use ‘common sense’ as ambulance workers strike