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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 February 2007, 11:38 GMT
999 crew sacked in meal break row
Ambulance [generic]
The paramedics are appealing against the decision to sack them
Two ambulance paramedics in North Yorkshire have been sacked because they did not respond to a 999 call while on a meal break, the BBC has learned.

The two men had been on duty for about six hours during a shift last month when the emergency call came in and they said they were unable to respond.

The Yorkshire Ambulance Service sacked them and they are appealing against that decision, the GMB union said.

Managers said they would not comment on the case during the appeal process.

Details of the emergency call or how it was eventually dealt with are not yet known.

Choking teenager

The two men, who are both believed to be long-serving employees, were dismissed on 19 January and had until this Friday to lodge an appeal in writing.

The appeal hearing by senior managers would normally take place within 28 days of the Yorkshire Ambulance Service receiving notice of the appeal.

The sackings come after a similar incident in County Durham last month.

Paramedics there took almost double the estimated response time to reach a teenager choking on a pen top because the nearest crew was on a lunch break.

The boy later died but there is no suggestion he would have survived if the nearer crew had attended.

In the case of the North East Ambulance Trust, which covers County Durham, a deal over meal breaks now looks to be in the offing.

National negotiations

An offer of 35 for each meal break which is disrupted by an emergency call has been made - and the union Unison is recommending its members accept it.

This is one of the local agreements which ambulance trusts across England have been negotiating to cover meal breaks which are disrupted by an emergency call.

Under arrangements introduced nationally in June 2005, paramedics are not paid for meal breaks and, as a result, are not called out to emergencies during break times.

National talks are going on to try to resolve the issue.

The Yorkshire Ambulance Service, formed last July by the merger of ambulance services covering North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire, inherited different arrangements for each area.

In North Yorkshire, paramedics receive a so-called availability payment of about 1,500 a year.

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