Officers in the capital were called in to provide support for London Ambulance Service (LAS) which faced “severe pressure” as a consequence of the industrial action.
Some 42% of London Ambulance Service’s staff are on strike and NHS London strategic health authority said the service had received 30% more 999 calls than normal. The reason for the surge in calls is not yet known.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said that the force, alongside police from City of London and British Transport Police were asked by LAS for support.
Across the country, patients with urgent needs were prioritised as tens of thousands of operations and other patient appointments were cancelled and rescheduled.
The picture of disruption in NHS trusts varied across the UK, with some saying services had been severely hampered while others said they were working as close to normal as possible.
A Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) spokesman said that whilst the ambulance service were dealing with “critical incidents” where lives were at risk, police were providing medical support and transporting medical staff when necessary.
Commander Simon Pountain, who was in charge of the policing operation for the public services demonstration, said: “It is normal for the emergency services to work together on large scale events and incidents and the MPS will provide whatever support is necessary to the LAS.
“Whilst these are exceptional circumstances, we will work with colleagues from the other blue light services to provide whatever support and assistance we can to help. All police officers are first aid trained.”
The ambulance service urged people to only ring for an ambulance if they “feel that life is at risk”.
London Ambulance Service deputy director of operations Jason Killens said: “We are still under severe pressure and expect this to increase over the next few hours as a result of today’s industrial action.
“There are still a number of patients who are waiting for an ambulance response and it is more important than ever for Londoners to only dial 999 for an ambulance if somebody’s life is in danger.
“We have asked unions to encourage their members to return to work as normal or increase their emergency cover, as per the agreement with Unison and GMB.”