Page last updated at 07:24 GMT, Tuesday, 14 April 2009 08:24 UK

Ambulance staff meal breaks row

The ambulance service says all areas are covered during breaks.

Ambulance staff in Dorset have been told to ignore emergencies during meal breaks under new rules.

Workers have been told they must take two compulsory 30-minute breaks during a 12-hour shift and cannot respond to emergencies during this time.

Conservative councillor Nick King said he had received letters from ambulance staff worried injured people are having to wait longer for treatment.

South Western Ambulance Service said all areas are covered during breaks.

In a statement, the service said: "We introduced them in Dorset last Monday after consulting with staff over a period of months.

I think there needs to be some flexibility
Councillor Nick King

"So far there's been no negative impact. The situation is being continually monitored and meetings are planned to review progress."

The changes bring ambulance workers in line with those in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, which have implemented the new rules for the past three years.

But Mr King, Bournemouth councillor for Littledown and Iford, said he was contacted anonymously by an ambulance worker.

"There was an incident where a young lad was hurt just outside Wimborne and because of the fact local crews couldn't react it took another ambulance 20 minutes to reach the scene from Southbourne," he added.

"There is no suggestion that people shouldn't take a break.

"[But] I think there needs to be some flexibility.

"If there is an accident down the road and they are on their break but want to attend we should look at a way where they can do this."

A meeting with staff over the issue is due to be held on Tuesday.

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