Yorkshire ambulance staff are preparing for two more strikes in a dispute over patient safety.

Paramedics and ambulance staff, who are members of Unite, the country’s largest union, will hold two five-hour strikes on Friday and Monday from 3pm to 8pm over the introduction of elongated shift patterns that they claim could mean staff working ten hours without a meal break.

Unite says the proposals for shifts would affect patient safety. It wants a protected meal break of 30 minutes after six hours.

Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe said: “It is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed as a result of staff exhaustion.”

The union has also expressed concern at the continued and increasing use of private ambulance firms to plug the gaps in NHS 999 responses which was particularly noticeable in December and over the Christmas and New Year period.

A spokesman for Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust said the action was a concern and was taking place without any concessions for the most seriously-ill and injured patients. He added: “We are committed to minimising the level of disruption to our services.”