Lives are being put at risk in Keighley due to changes to ambulance cover, it is claimed.

The town’s ambulance station is empty and the area devoid of cover for much of each day, say union chiefs.

“Some conditions, such as a stroke or heart attack, require a patient is properly treated within an hour or it puts their life in jeopardy. But this is no longer happening due to the lack of ambulance resources and the waiting times,” said Terry Cunliffe, regional officer of Unite.

“This is extremely worrying to staff – they also have loved ones living in the area who are therefore at serious risk should they need emergency care.

“It is also leaving staff vulnerable to verbal abuse from families who are unhappy their relative has to wait for an ambulance to take them to hospital.”

Mr Cunliffe added: “It is becoming a ‘postcode lottery’, with the cities getting far more ambulances than the outer towns and rural areas. The vehicles are sucked into the big cities and no other resource is available to take their place. This happens daily and is due to money-saving issues.

“Every day heralds disarray and ‘panic management’, as crews find themselves away from the area, covering Bradford or Leeds where they can more easily achieve government targets. Reaching the targets rewards the service with money, while not achieving them carries penalties.”

Mr Cunliffe said emergency crews at Keighley were recently given just four days to accept revised rotas, which they feared would be unsafe for patients and unworkable for staff.

He added the proposals include runs of eight shifts in succession, amounting to 84-hour stints with just six hours’ rest, plus forced ‘end of shift’ overtime.

Meal breaks are also being reduced, and staff will have just three weekends off in every ten.

Unite is currently balloting its 450 members at the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust for action regarding the new shift patterns, scheduled to be introduced next month.

The union has four members at Keighley Ambulance Station in Hard Ings Road.