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Public sector strike: Major incident remains in place as Northern Ireland Ambulance Service canvas on-duty staff

In pictures: Public sector strike in Northern Ireland March 13 2015 Close

Public Sector mass rally at Belfast City Hall to protest against spending cuts. Presseye

Public Sector mass rally at Belfast City Hall to protest against spending cuts. Presseye

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

Public Service Rally - Belfast City Centre - 13th March 2015
Presseye Declan Roughan

VoxPop Belfast Telegraph

Jim Quinn Leader of the Fire Brigade Union

Public Service Rally - Belfast City Centre - 13th March 2015 Presseye Declan Roughan VoxPop Belfast Telegraph Jim Quinn Leader of the Fire Brigade Union

Public Service Rally - Belfast City Centre - 13th March 2015 Emma Quinn

Public Service Rally - Belfast City Centre - 13th March 2015 Emma Quinn

?Russell Pritchard  13th March 2015
Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions.

The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration.

The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained".

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard 13th March 2015 Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions. The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration. The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained". ?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

Public Service Rally - Belfast City Centre - 13th March 2015
Presseye Declan Roughan

VoxPop Belfast Telegraph

(L-R) Gary Mc Corkingdale and Thomas Moore

Public Service Rally - Belfast City Centre - 13th March 2015 Presseye Declan Roughan VoxPop Belfast Telegraph (L-R) Gary Mc Corkingdale and Thomas Moore

Public Service Rally - Belfast City Centre - 13th March 2015
Presseye Declan Roughan

VoxPop Belfast Telegraph

(L-R) Clare Mc Donnell, Ciara and David Macleish with their children Piaras (left) and Eva

Public Service Rally - Belfast City Centre - 13th March 2015 Presseye Declan Roughan VoxPop Belfast Telegraph (L-R) Clare Mc Donnell, Ciara and David Macleish with their children Piaras (left) and Eva

Public Service Rally - Belfast City Centre - 13th March 2015
Presseye Declan Roughan

VoxPop Belfast Telegraph

Sean burns

Public Service Rally - Belfast City Centre - 13th March 2015 Presseye Declan Roughan VoxPop Belfast Telegraph Sean burns

Public Service Rally - Belfast City Centre - 13th March 2015
Presseye Declan Roughan

VoxPop Belfast Telegraph

(L-R) Margaraet Mc Cabe, Colette McKinney, Lorainne McMenamy and Cathy Gourley

Public Service Rally - Belfast City Centre - 13th March 2015 Presseye Declan Roughan VoxPop Belfast Telegraph (L-R) Margaraet Mc Cabe, Colette McKinney, Lorainne McMenamy and Cathy Gourley

Public Service Rally - Belfast City Centre - 13th March 2015
Presseye Declan Roughan

VoxPop Belfast Telegraph

(L-R) Margaraet Mc Cabe and Colette McKinney

Public Service Rally - Belfast City Centre - 13th March 2015 Presseye Declan Roughan VoxPop Belfast Telegraph (L-R) Margaraet Mc Cabe and Colette McKinney

Public Service Rally - Belfast City Centre - 13th March 2015
Presseye Declan Roughan

VoxPop Belfast Telegraph

Colette McKinney

Public Service Rally - Belfast City Centre - 13th March 2015 Presseye Declan Roughan VoxPop Belfast Telegraph Colette McKinney

Public Service Rally - Belfast City Centre - 13th March 2015
Presseye Declan Roughan

VoxPop Belfast Telegraph

Michelle Davidson

Public Service Rally - Belfast City Centre - 13th March 2015 Presseye Declan Roughan VoxPop Belfast Telegraph Michelle Davidson

Public Service Rally - Belfast City Centre - 13th March 2015
Presseye Declan Roughan

VoxPop Belfast Telegraph

Michelle Davidson

Public Service Rally - Belfast City Centre - 13th March 2015 Presseye Declan Roughan VoxPop Belfast Telegraph Michelle Davidson

Public Service Rally - Belfast City Centre - 13th March 2015
Presseye Declan Roughan

VoxPop Belfast Telegraph

Mary Smith

Public Service Rally - Belfast City Centre - 13th March 2015 Presseye Declan Roughan VoxPop Belfast Telegraph Mary Smith

?Russell Pritchard  13th March 2015
Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions.

The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration.

The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained".

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard 13th March 2015 Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions. The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration. The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained". ?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard  13th March 2015
Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions.

The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration.

The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained".

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard 13th March 2015 Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions. The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration. The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained". ?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard  13th March 2015
Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions.

The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration.

The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained".

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard 13th March 2015 Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions. The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration. The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained". ?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard  13th March 2015
Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions.

The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration.

The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained".

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard 13th March 2015 Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions. The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration. The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained". ?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard  13th March 2015
Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions.

The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration.

The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained".

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard 13th March 2015 Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions. The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration. The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained". ?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard  13th March 2015
Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions.

The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration.

The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained".

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard 13th March 2015 Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions. The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration. The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained". ?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard  13th March 2015
Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions.

Radiographer at the R.V.H, Connor McCarthy
?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard 13th March 2015 Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions. Radiographer at the R.V.H, Connor McCarthy ?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard  13th March 2015
Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions.

The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration.

The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained".

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard 13th March 2015 Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions. The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration. The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained". ?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard  13th March 2015
Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions.

The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration.

The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained".

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard 13th March 2015 Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions. The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration. The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained". ?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard  13th March 2015
Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions.

The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration.
The strike at The R.V.H today
?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard 13th March 2015 Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions. The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration. The strike at The R.V.H today ?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard  13th March 2015
Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions.

The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration.

The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained".

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard 13th March 2015 Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions. The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration. The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained". ?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard  13th March 2015
Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions.

The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration.

The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained".

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard 13th March 2015 Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions. The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration. The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained". ?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph 

Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes

Pictured members of the UNITE AND NIPSA union on strike outside the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast on Friday 13th March. 


Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes Pictured members of the UNITE AND NIPSA union on strike outside the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast on Friday 13th March. Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph 

Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes

Pictured members of the UNITE AND NIPSA union Daire and Grainne Lawlor on strike outside the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast on Friday 13th March. 


Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes Pictured members of the UNITE AND NIPSA union Daire and Grainne Lawlor on strike outside the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast on Friday 13th March. Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph 

Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes

Pictured members of the UNITE AND NIPSA union on strike outside the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast on Friday 13th March. 


Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes Pictured members of the UNITE AND NIPSA union on strike outside the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast on Friday 13th March. Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Pacemaker Press Belfast 13-03-2015: Northern Ireland public sector strike disrupts public services. Public services in Northern Ireland are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions. The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration. On the picket line on the Antrim Road in Belfast.
Picture By: Arthur Allison.

Pacemaker Press Belfast 13-03-2015: Northern Ireland public sector strike disrupts public services. Public services in Northern Ireland are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions. The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration. On the picket line on the Antrim Road in Belfast. Picture By: Arthur Allison.

Pacemaker Press Belfast 13-03-2015: Northern Ireland public sector strike disrupts public services. Public services in Northern Ireland are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions. The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration. On the picket line on the Antrim Road in Belfast.
Picture By: Arthur Allison.

Pacemaker Press Belfast 13-03-2015: Northern Ireland public sector strike disrupts public services. Public services in Northern Ireland are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions. The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration. On the picket line on the Antrim Road in Belfast. Picture By: Arthur Allison.

?Russell Pritchard  13th March 2015
Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions.

The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration.

The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained".
One of the picket lines at Gt.Victoria Street
?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard 13th March 2015 Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions. The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration. The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained". One of the picket lines at Gt.Victoria Street ?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard  13th March 2015
Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions.

The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration.

The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained".
Robert Sharkey, outside Gloucester House, Belfast.
?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard 13th March 2015 Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions. The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration. The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained". Robert Sharkey, outside Gloucester House, Belfast. ?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard  13th March 2015
Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions.

The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration.

The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained".
One of the picket lines at Gt.Victoria Street
?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard 13th March 2015 Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions. The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration. The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained". One of the picket lines at Gt.Victoria Street ?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard  13th March 2015
Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions.

The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration.

The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained".
One of the picket lines at Gt.Victoria Street
?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard 13th March 2015 Public services in Northern Irelands are being disrupted by a strike by some public sector trade unions. The strike is affecting education, public transport and administration. The Department of Health has said arrangements have been put in place to ensure "critical services will be maintained". One of the picket lines at Gt.Victoria Street ?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph 

Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes

Pictured members of the NIPSA union on strike outside De La Salle College in Belfast on Friday 13th March. 


Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes Pictured members of the NIPSA union on strike outside De La Salle College in Belfast on Friday 13th March. Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph 

Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes

Pictured members of the NIPSA union on strike outside De La Salle College in Belfast on Friday 13th March. 


Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes Pictured members of the NIPSA union on strike outside De La Salle College in Belfast on Friday 13th March. Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph 

Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes

Pictured members of the UNITE union on strike outside the Falls Road Bus Depot in West Belfast on Friday 13th March. 


Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes Pictured members of the UNITE union on strike outside the Falls Road Bus Depot in West Belfast on Friday 13th March. Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph 

Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes

Pictured Batman of the UNITE union on strike outside the Falls Road Bus Depot in West Belfast on Friday 13th March. 


Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes Pictured Batman of the UNITE union on strike outside the Falls Road Bus Depot in West Belfast on Friday 13th March. Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph 

Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes

Pictured Batman of the UNITE union on strike outside the Falls Road Bus Depot in West Belfast on Friday 13th March. 


Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes Pictured Batman of the UNITE union on strike outside the Falls Road Bus Depot in West Belfast on Friday 13th March. Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph 

Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes

Pictured Batman of the UNITE union on strike outside the Falls Road Bus Depot in West Belfast on Friday 13th March. 


Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes Pictured Batman of the UNITE union on strike outside the Falls Road Bus Depot in West Belfast on Friday 13th March. Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph 

Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes

Pictured Batman of the UNITE union on strike outside the Falls Road Bus Depot in West Belfast on Friday 13th March. 


Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes Pictured Batman of the UNITE union on strike outside the Falls Road Bus Depot in West Belfast on Friday 13th March. Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph 

Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes

Pictured Batman of the UNITE union on strike outside the Falls Road Bus Depot in West Belfast on Friday 13th March. 


Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes Pictured Batman of the UNITE union on strike outside the Falls Road Bus Depot in West Belfast on Friday 13th March. Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph 

Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes

Pictured Batman of the UNITE union on strike outside the Falls Road Bus Depot in West Belfast on Friday 13th March. 


Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes Pictured Batman of the UNITE union on strike outside the Falls Road Bus Depot in West Belfast on Friday 13th March. Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph 

Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes

Pictured Batman of the UNITE union on strike outside the Falls Road Bus Depot in West Belfast on Friday 13th March. 


Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes Pictured Batman of the UNITE union on strike outside the Falls Road Bus Depot in West Belfast on Friday 13th March. Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph 

Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes

Pictured Batman of the UNITE union on strike outside the Falls Road Bus Depot in West Belfast on Friday 13th March. 


Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Friday 13th March 2015 - Public Sector Strikes Pictured Batman of the UNITE union on strike outside the Falls Road Bus Depot in West Belfast on Friday 13th March. Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Public Sector mass rally at Belfast City Hall to protest against spending cuts. Presseye

A major incident declared by The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service will stay in place after only 10% of staff on-duty said they would respond to emergency calls if it was stood down.

The NIAS declared a major incident after levels of cover reached a critical level because of workers going on strike today.

Unions had initially agreed an emergency protocol for ambulance and fire cover during today's industrial action, but the levels of staff at the Belfast Trust who would not be turning up for work forced the move.

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The Ambulance Service said it had no choice but to declare a major incident in order to ensure the public's safety.

On Friday afternoon the NIAS canvassed staff on duty to see if they would remain on duty to respond to Cat A and B calls if the major incident was stood down.

Category A calls are the most serious, where there is an immediate threat to life.

Those which are serious but not life-threatening are prioritised as Category B.

Those which are neither serious nor life-threatening are Category C.

A statement said: "Approximately only 10% of the 41 crews on duty confirmed they were willing to so do.  In the absence of a concrete commitment from enough staff required to sustain a safe service, the trust has taken the decision to keep the Major Incident in place."

Hundreds of patients across Northern Ireland who dial 999 could face a long wait for an ambulance because of the 24-hour strike action.

Last-ditch talks between Northern Ireland's health unions and management to agree on a safe level of service for urgent but not immediately life-threatening calls failed yesterday - just hours before the strike began at midnight.

Unions agreed to an emergency protocol for ambulance and fire cover as tens of thousands of health and public sector workers walked out.

They were to respond to immediately life-threatening 999 calls and unions have insisted patients will receive safe care.

The NIAS warned this will lead to a "serious backlog" as Category B and C calls which are deemed not immediately life-threatening will only be dealt with following long delays and said the union action "puts lives at risk".

The Ambulance Service said: "There will then be approximately 330 calls on Friday which will not receive a 999 response and include some stroke patients, elderly patients who have fallen in their homes or on the street, some road traffic collisions, children who have sustained broken bones after falls among many more."

The unions will provide non-emergency transport for palliative care patients, oncology patients, renal patients and paediatric patients.

Patricia McKeown from Unison said: "Where our members are involved we are providing cover for the young, old and infirm in residential care, and at bank holiday levels for community and hospital care.

"On acute care we are providing emergency cover on detailed agreements with the employers."

An estimated 60% of accident and emergency crews and 80% of rapid response paramedics plan to strike.

Paramedics have warned because of the pressures on the system, patients are at risk daily.

One paramedic, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Belfast Telegraph he only recently became supportive of strike action when the pressure became overwhelming.

"I'm going out on strike because we are being sent out to calls exhausted doing a 12-hour shift without a break," he said. "We are burnt-out and at breaking point."

The action that began at midnight has led to seven voluntary ambulances being used to respond to calls across the region.

Unite national officer Kevin McAdam said: "They rightly fear that the scale of the proposed cuts to public services - including to NI Ambulance Service and NI Fire & Rescue Service - will undermine these critical services and threaten public safety.

MLA David McNarry said fears over loss of life were real.

"Mothers, fathers and grandparents can put up with looking after children if the school is closed," he said.

"We can put up with not having a bus, but you can't put up with saying it's OK to put a life at risk.

"There cannot be any fault lines to response times in emergencies. Concerns that lives could be lost are legitimate."