AMBULANCE unions could ballot for strike action if plans to cut more than £6- million of ‘front-line services’ are forced through.
It is understood the North West Ambulance Service proposes to slash night cover at some stations, remove day vehicles from others, and reduce the amount it spends on overtime payments.
The trust’s Cost Improvement Plan for 2014/15 includes £6.5million of savings with the Paramedic Emergency Service, which the GMB union said were front-line cuts.
The union did not cite any savings affecting the level of ambulance cover in East Lancashire, but said many of the proposals would still have an impact.
Ray Carrick, regional officer, said: “At some stations in the North West you could see one out of two ambulances removed from a 12-hour night shift, so there’s no question this would result in cuts to front line cover. In fairness to the trust these are only proposals at the moment, so are subject to change, but we are opposed to cuts which are simply designed to save money and will affect patient care. We don’t accept the trust are in any kind of financial difficulty as they’ve got about £31million in banked cash.”
He said the branch was undecided on strike action, but added ‘ultimately we would’.
The Unite union has also said the changes could result in a strike ballot.
However, Alan Stuttard, deputy chief executive and director of finance for NWAS, said: “In an increasingly challenging financial environment, like any organisation, we do need to look at how efficiencies can be made.
“Our priority is and will always be patient care. However, we have a responsibility to the tax payer to ensure their money is spent appropriately.”
He said the ‘reductions in operational establishments’ will achieve savings by deploying vehicles in a more ‘dynamic way’, adding: “It’s very rare that ambulances are at stations waiting to be assigned to an incident.”