Page last updated at 07:56 GMT, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 08:56 UK

Ambulance cuts 'could risk lives'

Emergency ambulance cover will be cut by 80 hours a week in Derry

Cuts to the emergency ambulance service in Londonderry could put lives at risk, unions have warned.

Emergency ambulance cover is to be cut by almost 80 hours a week as part of efficiency savings.

They will be replaced by an increased number of rapid response vehicles (RRVs), which those in charge have said will mean more paramedic cover.

Kevin McAdam from the union Unite said taking hours from ambulances "cannot be increasing or improving the service".

"There is a role for RRVs, but we see them as complementary to the standard emergency vehicle which is staffed by two people and can take people to hospital.

"We think here that there is the potential for duplication, where one vehicle will go out and an ambulance will follow it.

"An RRV is limited in what it can do, it can't bring a patient to hospital, and it may be that the wrong vehicle is sent to the wrong place and that will have a detrimental effect on patients," he said.

Brian McNeil, Director of Operations with the Ambulance Service, said the changes would mean increased paramedic cover.

"We need to make efficiency savings of 3%, as requested by the Department of Health.

"We've had to do this by changing the profile of our accident and emergency services, and we've been fortunate enough to attract investment which will enable us to put in 7,300 hours of RRV cover," he said.

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