HUNDREDS of ‘life threatening’ ambulance calls are not being attended by paramedics, with more junior staff being sent to the incidents instead.

This happened nearly 1,400 times in East Lancashire in the eight months to December, which represented about seven per cent of the calls.

Union bosses said the ‘red 1’ and ‘red 2’ incidents would have been attended by emergency medical technicians, who normally provide support to paramedics.

Further analysis showed five per cent of red 1 calls in East Lancashire were not attended by a paramedic, compared to 3.6 per cent across the North West. These cover cardiac arrests and patients with life-threatening trauma injuries.

North West Ambulance Service [NWAS] said the figures were partly due to difficulties in recruiting paramedics, which has left 14 vacant positions out of 503 in Lancashire and Cumbria.

Further data obtained through Freedom of Infomration laws suggested the ‘death rate’ for red 1 calls increased slightly, from 18.7 per cent to 20 per cent, for incidents where there was no paramedic in attendance. However, NWAS insisted this data was unreliable and statistically flawed.

Ray Carrick, who represents ambulance workers for the GMB union in the North West, said: “Technicians are able to deal with about 90 per cent of what a paramedic can do, but paramedics provide a more skilled level of care. We would very much like to see them filling these vacancies.

“The vast majority are technicians who have undergone another year of training, so I’m wondering why they would have any real difficulty filling the posts. We know there’s a lot of staff who want to do the training.

“We used to train them in house but now they go to university, so maybe there’s a problem with getting them places.”

Lisa Ward, head of human resources at NWAS, said: “There isn’t a national requirement to have a paramedic on every operational vehicle, however, it is our aim to deliver that for our patients.

“We are confident that in the coming financial year we will be able to fill the remaining vacancies.”

The current vacancies are covered through overtime, she added.