AN AMBULANCE union has slammed a 999 control centre in Lancashire for ‘not being up to standard’.

Bosses at The Association of Professional Ambulance Personnel claimed that patients were being put at risk due to the centre in Broughton, near Preston, was not living up to its “state-of-the-art” tag.

The criticism comes as ambulance crews in Cumbria have said they face problems keeping to response times since its control centre in Carlisle was moved to the larger centre in June.

The crews have claimed that because of a lack of local knowledge at the headquarters they have sometimes been sent from one side of the county to the other.

Jonathan Fox, a spokesperson for the union, said that the justification for relocating control rooms was increased efficiency and quicker response times due to improved technology taking human error out of the equation.

“In these supposedly state-of-the-art control rooms there should be an automatic vehicle location system which electronically captures ambulances.

“However, it seems that crews are still being manually located which is inevitably dependent on local knowledge and is obviously posing a huge risk to the patients,” said Mr Fox, who has been a paramedic for more than 30 years. “ The 999 control room at Broughton, which employs more than 110 people, was created as part of a shake-up of the ambulance service and now covers all calls for Cumbria as well as Lancashire.

The £1.3m project took nine months to complete and the work was finished in December 2007.

Initially the call centre just handled calls for Lancashire.

The building is split into four key areas, a call handling suite, a dispatch suite, a fall back area in case of failure at another control centre and an office suite.

A spokesman for the North West Ambulance Service NHS said: “The Trust worked closely with staff in Carlisle and Broughton over a long period of time to prepare for the move including staff from Cumbria spending several weeks down in Broughton to assist in the transition.

“The Service has experienced higher than normal levels of activity for this time of year, a 10 per cent increase in July.

"This understandably has had an impact on our performance levels.

"This is something NWAS as a whole and ambulance services across the country are currently experiencing.

"NWAS remains committed to the highest levels of patient care and service provision.”