More than 20 ambulances were off the road in Lancashire and Cumbria this week due to a work-to-rule by paramedics, it has been claimed.
Crews refusing to do overtime and insisting on taking breaks caused delays for patients, some of them suffering life-threatening emergencies, said the North West Ambulance Service.
Paramedics joined other health service workers in a four-hour walk-out on Monday morning over the Government’s refusal to implement a recommended one per cent wage rise for all NHS staff - the first such strike over pay in more than 30 years.
They then followed it with an overtime ban for the rest of the week, resulting in a reduced service across the region and 21 ambulances without crews.
Derek Cartwright, director of operations for the North West Ambulance Service, said the dispute had impacted on the 999 service.
“We recognise and respect the right of our staff to take action, but at this moment, our major concern is having enough resources to be able to provide a service for our patients.
“We do rely on the goodwill of our staff to volunteer for overtime shifts to cover sickness, annual leave and vacancies and when that offer is withdrawn it does have an effect on patients.
“It is the patients who see the real impact when we don’t have enough ambulances on the road.
“This leads to delays in reaching those who need urgent emergency care. “
Mr Cartwright said the service was required to reach 75 per cent of Red One calls (involving an immediate threat to life) within eight minutes. But in one 48-hour period they only managed to achieve 70.7.
Bob Parkinson, branch secretary of Unite at NWAS, said: “We realise that the overtime ban is causing a problem to the Trust, but overtime is not a contracted position and staff are at liberty to refuse to do overtime regardless of whether there is a dispute or not.
“I would encourage NWAS to staff up to a level where overtime is less essential to the running of the Trust.”