Ambulance service hits back at claims by union

THE Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) has defended itself against claims it is understaffed and unable to meet response time targets.

The allegations were made by the GMB union which called for the service - which covers the Bridlington area - to employ more staff and upgrade its fleet of vehicles to hit the national eight-minute target time for reaching patient calls deemed immediately life threatening.

Out of the 11 national services, YAS ranked second bottom in responding to these life-threatening calls in 2008/2009, reaching only 69.44% of people within the 8 minute period - below the target of 75%.

Martyn Pritchard, Chief Executive of Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: "YAS was rated as one of the best ambulance services in the country for the clinical care it provides and received an 'Excellent' score for this as part of the Care Quality Commission's annual performance assessment for 2008-09.

"We have invested heavily in frontline resources over the past two years and have recruited over 280 additional frontline staff and spent over 5.5 million modernising and expanding our fleet.

"We are already seeing the benefits of this investment and, so far this month, we are reaching 75% of patients with potentially life-threatening illnesses or injuries within eight minutes."

The service does not currently recognise the GMB union for the purposes of collective bargaining, and met again last month with officials to discuss their request for formal recognition.

GMB members make up just eight per cent of overall employees at the trust.

GMB regional organiser Jon Smith said: "Give us the staff and the vehicles and GMB members will give the people of Yorkshire the eight-minute response.

"GMB have already exposed YAS as running the service with insufficient staff driving around in clapped out vehicles, and these concerns are now borne out by Government figures.

"Our members are working their socks off, often on overtime, to cover staff shortages, to get to the most life-threatening emergencies as quickly as possible but can only do that if there are enough crews and vehicles on the road."

The GMB union says Yorkshire Ambulance Service need more staff and vehicles.