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Last Updated: Friday, 11 March, 2005, 10:38 GMT
Ambulance service 'in meltdown'
Mr Gale claims the ambulance service is stretched to its limit
Kent's ambulance service is "in meltdown", a county MP claims.

Roger Gale, the Conservative MP for North Thanet, said a patient had to wait three days for transport to London for heart surgery.

He said the service is overstretched in east Kent and a paramedic has told him staff have been forced to work 12 hour shifts with virtually no break.

But Kent Ambulance Trust has refuted the claims and said it has received no reports about staff concerns.

Haydon Newton, chief executive of the trust, said: "These claims are news to me... this is a very busy period for the ambulance service.

'Lower priority'

"We receive between 15 and 20 request for transport for heart treatment patients on a daily basis.

"All require blue light ambulances so we have to prioritise because we can't let all those vehicles go at the same time."

Mr Newton said Mr Gale's patient was seen as a lower priority as his condition was only understood to be minor.

He added it was the choice of staff to work 12 hour shifts and was not a management wish.

'On their knees'

Mr Gale also criticised the service for only having two crews working overnight rather than three.

"The Kent Ambulance Service is in meltdown... they are practically on their knees," he said.

But Mr Newton said more than three crews cover the east of the county and questioned the fairness of the MP's claims.

"He has spoken to one or two people when we have a workforce of over 900 so I'm not sure how representative that really is."

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