PLANS to slash weekend paramedic cover in Blackburn, Burnley and Nelson have been suspended, after concerns ‘lives could be lost’.

The NHS has agreed temporary funding for the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) to maintain the current levels of cover for the rest of the financial year.

In May, the Lancashire Telegraph revealed how NWAS had proposed cutting £6.5 million from its emergency services budget, in its Cost Improvement Programme, which prompted talk of strike action from union members.

More than 11,000 people signed a petition against the cuts, which affected the whole region.

The Blackburn ambulance station would have lost 7.5 hours of rapid response vehicle (RRV) cover on both Saturdays and Sundays, while Nelson would have lose 11.5 hours on Friday and Saturday nights.

The stations are each currently covered by four ambulances and one RRV, which is a specially-equipped car generally manned by a paramedic.

The cover was set to be ‘realigned’ to Accrington, where demand has been greater, although this would have been in the form of an extra urgent care vehicle, to be manned by less qualified staff. An intermediate care vehicle in Burnley would also have been axed in favour of an urgent care vehicle.

Alan Stuttard, finance director at NWAS, said: “The trust has received some additional funding from our commissioners which will enable us to maintain the shifts and resources which we were reviewing through the Winter to the end of the financial year.

“However, this money is not permanent and it is important that we continue to look at providing the most appropriate service for patients, and we know this isn’t always in the form of an ambulance and trip to the accident and emergency department.”

He stressed the trust will continue to expand its ‘hear and treat’ and ‘see and treat’ initiatives, which mean more patients can be treated without the need for a trip to hospital.

Angela Rayner, regional convenor for the Unison union, said: “It’s great that people power has been successful and these cuts have been suspended. However, we must remain vigilant as the funding is temporary. We may need a similar campaign next year to protect our services.”