Hundreds of paramedics and ambulance staff could be set to take to the picket lines for the first time in four decades.

Members of the GMB Union, which represents around 800 workers at the East of England Ambulance Service Trust, are poised to vote on whether or not to strike in the coming weeks.

The dispute comes with the ambulance trust facing huge struggles in relation to staff sickness, growing stress levels and mounting demand for its services.

The vote comes with members also frustrated at the government's four per cent pay award - which leaves workers facing a real term cut in wages.

Lola McEvoy, GMB organiser, said: "GMB members in the ambulance service have been forced to take a stand in order to protect patient care.

"Dedicated ambulance workers are leaving trusts in droves because the workload pressure is too much and the pay is too poor.

"Those left behind are fighting to protect themselves, their colleagues and the future of the NHS.

"They do not take industrial action lightly and haven't gone on strike for 40 years - but things can not go on like this.

"Something has to give."

A ballot will be held in the coming weeks to determine whether or not a strike will be held.

However, a consultative ballot saw close to 86pc of EEAST members indicating they would be in favour of a walkout.

The vote comes with the ambulance trust continuing to face stiff challenges, with bosses close to declaring a major incident over demand levels.

Recent figures showed that the trust is battling a sickness rate of more than 10pc and Marcus Bailey, its own chief operating officer, is currently on an extended period of leave.

Speaking last month, a paramedic working for the trust said: "Staff are completely burned out, but the trouble is, it is only going to get worse.

"'Winter pressures' will soon kick in, Covid infections will rise and more staff will succumb to that, leaving fewer staff to deal with an increasing workload."

It comes after 999 call handlers joined in a day of industrial action organised by the Communications Workers Union.