AMBULANCE service staff in Yorkshire are being urged to turn ‘whistleblower’ by union leaders who claim cuts are putting lives at risk.
Trade union Unite launched a website for people to report concerns about the Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS).
A website to report ‘dangerous incidents’ was launched as plans emerged to lengthen target times for ambulances to reach some seriously-ill patients.
A leaked document includes plans to change the response time for some “Red 2” patients - those with “serious but not the most life-threatening” conditions - from eight to 19 minutes in England.
It said the proposals have been approved by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, subject to confirmation from the medical directors of 10 ambulance trusts.
The Department of Health said “no decisions have been made” and Mr Hunt would only agree to plans that improve response times for the most urgent cases.
The current target is for an emergency vehicle to reach those in life-threatening situations within eight minutes.
According to the leaked memo, drawn up by the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, NHS England has agreed “in principle” to relax the maximum ambulance wait for some Red 2 incidents, which include a range of serious problems including strokes and seizures.
The only higher category is Red 1 - “immediately life-threatening” incidents such as cardiac arrest, choking and major bleeding.
The changes would see about 40 per cent of Red 2 incidents move to a 19-minute response target while the proposed date for implementing the plans is the first week of January, the report states.
Andy Burnham, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said: “Jeremy Hunt was dragged before Parliament last Thursday to answer questions on NHS winter planning but treated it with contempt.
“It is outrageous that he decided to keep MPs and the public in the dark about a decision he had already taken and one which will have far-reaching implications across the NHS.
“Patients are already waiting hours on end for ambulances to arrive. People will struggle to understand how, in the middle of a crisis, it makes sense for the Government to make a panic decision to relax 999 standards and leave patients waiting even longer.”
Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu called on Labour and Tories to work together on NHS issues, saying: “The NHS and education are national treasures and should not be used as political footballs - enough is enough.”
In Yorkshire, Unite said it had been “inundated with concerns” about YAS.
Concerns included emergency care assistants sent to emergencies without a qualified paramedic and ‘whistleblowing’ staff subjected to disciplinary action.
Unite said: “Concerns have been expressed...over a number of months around possible life threatening issues at YAS.”
Ian Brandwood, at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said that Emergency Care Assistants do not go out without qualified paramedics and added: “We have a comprehensive whistleblowing policy in place and encourage staff to use that avenue in absolute confidence.”