A SHORTAGE of ambulances is leaving patients in “life or death” situations, a MP has claimed, after a woman was left waiting for treatment for hours on the side of a zebra crossing.

Anna Turley, Redcar MP, has warned her constituents will be left short of night time emergency care if plans by the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) to withdraw two rapid response vehicles go ahead.

NEAS say they are making the changes because they have too many vehicles on duty overnight and not enough during the day to meet patient demand.

But Ms Turley’s warning that the changes have the potential to put lives at risk come after an elderly woman was left waiting at a level crossing in Redcar with a broken hip in freezing temperatures last year for almost two hours.

Earlier this week, another patient had to wait more than three hours with stomach pains before an ambulance arrived, and then faced further delays when he arrived at A&E.

Speaking to The Northern Echo, he said: “I have never felt pain like it - I don’t want to ever experience anything like it again.

“You shouldn’t have to be laid out in severe agony waiting more than three hours for an ambulance, and then be sick and almost collapsing in A&E whilst other patients get seen.

“We need more ambulances and we need more emergency response vehicles – people’s lives depend on it.”

Lauren Dingsdale, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Middlesbrough South and east Cleveland, said the delays were “not acceptable”, whilst Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council leader Sue Jeffrey said making communities have sufficient ambulance cover is one of her “highest priorities”.

The two vehicles, one which operates 24 hours a day, will be withdrawn from Redcar and east Cleveland from around October. It is understood that new funding has been secured for two new 24 hour primary care cars, carrying defibrillators.

One of these vehicles will be based in Coulby Newham and Ms Turley is hoping the other can be based in Redcar.

She said: “We understand the need to target resources where they are most needed but there are very real concerns that night time cover will be spread too thin.

“There are already issues with ambulance response times which I’ve raised repeatedly following complaints from residents. We’ve had elderly women lying on pavements for hours and just this week a constituent told me he waited 3 hours with stomach pain before one arrived.

“Any further delay getting medical help to those who need it could be a matter of life or death. The funding for extra vehicles is positive and we are clear that this extra vehicle has to be allocated to Redcar & Cleveland.”

Vicky Court, deputy chief operating officer at NEAS, said: "Our frontline ambulance provision is benefitting from a £10.4 million investment over five years. This level of investment will support us to recruit an extra 100 paramedics and a further 90 clinical care assistants to ensure that we meet our targets under the new ambulance response standards.

"Ambulance demand is higher during the day than it is during the night and demand falls significantly between midnight and 7am. At the moment we have too many vehicles on duty overnight and not enough during the day to meet patient demand. This means that those patients with minor and non-life-threatening injuries currently wait longer for an ambulance during the day and some of this backlog of cases stretches into the night shift.

"The changes we are implementing are centred around a review of our shift patterns to meet patient demand. In some areas where we are over-resourced at night, we are reducing cover as the additional day-time resources will mean fewer patients waiting for an ambulance response stretching into the night, as happens now when patient demand is outstripping our current resource capability.

"In addition, the new ambulance response standards set a higher requirement for us to dispatch the right vehicle to meet the patient’s needs. Rapid response cars are not capable of safely transporting a patient to hospital, and where these are being withdrawn, we are adding more emergency care vehicles that are able to carry patients.

"Of course, these changes do impact upon some of our staff, particularly where rapid response vehicles are replaced by double-crew ambulances. We have allowed staff to vote for their preferred options and will implement those choices that are voted by the majority of staff on each station."