'Officers will have to sleep on friend's floors!': Met Chief warns that 'chaotic' NHS strikes will 'drag officers away' from duties

21 December 2022, 12:12 | Updated: 21 December 2022, 12:24

Mark Rowley
Mark Rowley. Picture: ALAMY / LBC
Melissa Fleur Afshar

By Melissa Fleur Afshar

Sir Mark Rowley has expressed his worry that the NHS strikes could 'drag police officers away from protecting Londoners' and tackling hard crime.

Sir Mark Rowley, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, has told LBC that wide-spread NHS strikes could pull police officers away from serious crime issues to deal with medical emergencies instead.

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

The Met Chief, who's only been in the role for four months, went on to say that the mass NHS strikes were "dragging police officers away from protecting Londoners."

While public sector strikes continue to grip the nation, professionals from other industries have been forced to step in for striking staff and fill their roles. After border force officers announced that they would be walking out of airports close to Christmas, members of the British Army were drafted in to fill their posts.

With police officers on standby to keep the NHS afloat amid mass strikes, Sir Mark Rowley has expressed his concerns.

"I am concerned that if the NHS is going to struggle more during the strikes, then that will be more police time distracted filling in for other people and not protecting Londoners from crime," said the Commissioner.

"I think my officers will find it galling that they are filling in for this [social care] work when they are not allowed to strike," he added. "They have no desire to [strike] and they want to work and protect London, yet they are filling in for other public servants who are striking."

The Met's chief then said that this period of disruption is going to be "pretty chaotic" for officers, with some even having to "sleep on friend's floors locally."

"[However], they are used to unpredictable hours so they are very resilient characters, but it will be disruptive for them," said Mr Rowley.

He told LBC that his primary fear is that "too much of [the police's] work will be distracted" by officers needing to pursue mental health emergencies instead of tackling the crimes that torment London.

While he addressed that his staff are displeased with being "dragged away" from their duties, the Met Chief argued that London's officers are "resilient" and will "find a way of making it work."

READ MORE: Strikes could mean police are too busy filling in for the NHS to tackle burglaries and stabbings, Met chief warns

Mr Rowley has been the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police since September 2022.
Mr Rowley has been the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police since September 2022. Picture: LBC

So far, NHS nurses have strikes on the 15 and 20 of December after an historic vote where 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing opted to strike.

10,000 ambulance workers also voted to hold strikes on the 21 and 28 December, which will last up to 24 hours.

The industrial action is expected to vary across NHS Trusts and regional ambulance services.

After members of the government rejected the pay rise requests of striking staff, the long-term sustainability of the National Health Service has been called into question.

READ MORE: Nurses 19% pay deal is 'unaffordable' health sec insists as placard-waving medics launch biggest ever NHS strike

Sir Mark Rowley opens up about his worries surrounding the NHS strikes

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