The boss of Yorkshire Ambulance Service bosses has rejected a union’s claims that lives are being put at risk in Keighley due to staff shift changes.
Unite claims the town’s ambulance station is empty and the area devoid of cover for much of each day and claims that more rural areas are suffering from a “postcode lottery”.
Ambulance trust chief executive David Whiting has dismissed the union’s allegations as “misleading and factually incorrect” but Terry Cunliffe, regional officer of Unite, insisted staff were concerned by the standard of cover at the station.
“Some conditions such as a stroke or heart attack require a patient is properly treated within an hour or it puts their life in jeopardy – this is no longer happening due to the lack of ambulance resources and the waiting times,” he said.
“This is extremely worrying to staff – they also have loved ones living in the area who are therefore at serious risk should they need emergency care.”
Mr Cunliffe claimed that emergency crews at Keighley were recently given only four days to accept revised rotas, which they feared would be unsafe for patients and unworkable for staff.
He said the proposals include runs of eight shifts in succession, amounting to 84-hour stints with only six hours’ rest, plus forced “end of shift” overtime. Also, meal breaks are being reduced. Unite is balloting its 450 members at the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust for action. The union, which is not recognised by Yorkshire Ambulance Service, has four members at Keighley Ambulance Station, in Hard Ings Road.
Mr Whiting said: “We refute the latest misleading and factually incorrect claims being made by Unite the Union around staff rest breaks and shift patterns. Changes to staff rotas and rest breaks have been agreed after a period of consultation with staff and Unison, following a detailed and comprehensive review of our service which took place throughout 2013.
“I would like to reiterate that patient care and safety remain at the heart of everything we do.”