A UNION has accused ambulance chiefs of "manipulating" response figures to cover up its failure on the day a health watchdog moved in to conduct an inspection of the Yorkshire service.

Unite claims that thousands of citizens have registered their concerns about Yorkshire Ambulance Service, with the union now launching its own campaign to allow the public to voice their observations.

The Quality Care Commission, a body which monitors the performance of health service organisations, yesterday started an inspection of YAS.

Service bosses have comprehensively dismissed the allegations, however, and said the union's claims were without evidence.

Unite said the CQC had received more than 500 letters from the public "over concerns that YAS may be trying to manipulate response figures to cover up its failure, and that staff whistleblowers are being targeted."

Under current rules, ambulance services are expected to meet certain targets for the time it takes them to respond to different types of emergencies and calls for assistance.

The CQC inspection is part of the process which has to be completed during the service's application to become a Foundation Trust.

If approved, that would give the board greater powers, including the right to generate up to 49 per cent of its income from private sources, the ability to borrow money and the flexibility to increase the pay of senior managers.

Unite assistant general secretary, Gail Cartmail said: “Hundreds of people have written to the health inspector to express concerns about the actions of senior management at Yorkshire Ambulance Service.

"They are urging the CQC to rigorously investigate claims that the Board of Yorkshire Ambulance Service could be putting patients at risk.

“The catalogue of failure is staggering and YAS cannot be rewarded with more powers through Foundation Trust status. It’s time to act in the interests of the people of Yorkshire and Humberside.”

Unite say they are concerned the new system could be used to "reward failure" when the service, in the year ending October 2014, failed in 11 of 12 months to meet the national target for 'red' emergencies, which means getting 75 per cent of ambulances to patients within eight minutes.

They say Emergency Care Assistants, who are less qualified than paramedics, are being sent to urgent calls without the presence of a qualified colleague.

Whistleblowers wanting to highlight problems with recording figures wanted to stay anonymous because of concerns about the repercussions of their actions, said Unite.

Ian Brandwood, Executive Director of People and Engagement at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: “Patients’ needs are at the heart of everything we do and our absolute focus is to ensure that we continue to deliver a safe, responsive and high quality service to them.

“We strongly refute the misleading claims of Unite the Union, which represents only eight per cent of our workforce. We have a comprehensive whistleblowing policy in place and encourage staff to use that avenue in absolute confidence. We do not silence our staff.

“Allegations relating to the accuracy of our call coding and accounts, which are both regularly audited, are also wholly false. In July 2013, the Care Quality Commission carried out a complete audit of call performance and concluded it was exemplary.

“We also deny their other allegations around the role of Emergency Care Assistants who do not respond to emergency calls without qualified clinicians.

“Unite is consistently promoting headline-grabbing allegations without sharing their evidence. We have regularly asked Unite to raise their specific concerns with us and again they have failed to do so.”