Page last updated at 17:06 GMT, Monday, 5 October 2009 18:06 UK

Shortages 'leave ambulances idle'

The service is in the middle of a massive recruitment campaign

Ambulances in Merseyside and Cheshire are often sitting unused because of a staff shortage, a union has claimed.

The North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) cannot cover all of its shifts with current staff levels and a massive recruitment campaign is underway.

Union officials have claimed the problem was putting staff under more "stress and strain".

The NWAS said crews were always mobilised from other areas of the North West to meet operational demand.

Ray Carrick, of the GMB/Ambulance Services Union (ASU), said it was not uncommon for vehicles to be left uncovered.

Staff pressure

But he told the BBC members were becoming concerned it was beginning to affect staff in Merseyside.

"It does seem to be from the feedback we're getting that it's becoming more and more commonplace," said Mr Carrick.

"If ambulances are missing from an ambulance station then cover has to come from somewhere else - and that has a domino affect on staff in that area.

We recognise the demands this places on staff and the trust will do all it can to support staff during this challenging period
Daren Hurrell, NWAS chief executive

"It's putting added stress and strain on staff - both paramedics and control room staff."

The trust said it was facing "significant challenges" because of the vacancies, a rise in 999 calls and training commitments.

At the moment 400 frontline staff are being recruited and trained to solve the problem. About half of these have already been appointed.

But in the meantime, the trust said it was using additional staff overtime to fill gaps.

NWAS chief executive Daren Hurrell said: "We recognise the demands this places on staff and the trust will do all it can to support staff during this challenging period.

"The trust continues to deliver a high level of service to the communities of the North West and closely monitors levels of activity on a daily basis, allocating resources accordingly.

"Numbers and locations of our ambulances and other emergency response vehicles may vary in a particular area at any given time due to patient demand.

"An emergency response is always provided as quickly as possible using a priority system based on the clinical need of our patients."

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