Page last updated at 13:28 GMT, Monday, 26 April 2010 14:28 UK

Joint fire and ambulance service call wrangle

Firefighters and ambulance
The call for a joint service has divided opinion

Calls for a joint fire and ambulance service have been made by the convenor of Grampian Fire and Rescue.

Councillor Mike Raeburn has argued it would save the taxpayer money.

However, the Unison union, which represents paramedics and ambulance technicians, and the Fire Brigades Union, have dismissed the idea.

They said it showed a lack of understanding of the specialist roles involved. The Scottish government said it was not considering a merger.

Councillor Raeburn said: "You dial 999 if you crash your car and who turns up? A fire engine and an ambulance.

"Why are they sent from different locations? Why are they sent from different control rooms? Why are they maintained by separate organisations? It's completely unnecessary."

'Scoop and run'

However, Sarah Duncan from Unison said: "The Ambulance Service is an integrated part of the NHS and provides patient care. It's not a scoop and run service to take people to hospital.

"People are treated in ambulances by highly skilled, very qualified staff."

Cllr Raeburn has offered Grampian as a test ground for merging emergency services but this has also courted controversy.

Alan Paterson, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union in Grampian, said: "Mr Raeburn doesn't have any authority to actually volunteer Grampian Fire and Rescue Services for these duties."

Mr Raeburn does however claim that he discussed the proposals with his chief fire officer David Dalziel.

He said: "It's something that has been explored by the Association of Chief Fire Officers in Scotland and they were taking it forward and unfortunately it was dismissed out of hand."

Grampian Fire and Rescue Services refused to comment on whether Mr Dalziel had discussed merging services in the area.

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