ANGRY crew members have threatened to close a North-East ambulance station on safety grounds unless "inadequate" road gritting is improved.

Ray McDermott, secretary of the North-East Ambulance Service branch of Unison, called for action after ambulances slid out of control.

"We nearly had to take the vehicles off at Durham on Saturday night because we could not get in or out of the Gilesgate ambulance station," said Mr McDermott, who represents nearly 900 ambulance workers.

"The ambulances were sliding down the bank sideways. Fortunately there were no cars in the way," he said.

"We were very concerned about staff safety. The ambulance station is on a hill and the road was just a sheet of glass.".

A similar problem occurred on Monday morning and ambulances were only able to get in and out with difficulty, he said.

In a separate incident in Ferryhill, County Durham, on Sunday an ambulance crew had to ask residents for a push after a 999 vehicle was unable to move because of ice.

"Fortunately, the patient was not critically ill because they lost 20 minutes getting them to hospital. There was not even a salt box on the estate," he said.

Mr McDermott blamed the lack of road gritting on council cutbacks and has raised the issue with ambulance management.

A spokeswoman for the North-East Ambulance Service said: "We have reported the problem to the county council and they have been very helpful. Of course, the trust will monitor the situation."

Durham County Council said the road leading up to the Gilesgate ambulance station was not, and had never been, on the regular gritting route around Durham City.

A spokeswoman for the council acknowledged that budget pressures had led to a reduction in the amount of gritting and salting.

But all major roads were treated whenever sub-zero temperatures are predicted, she said.

If there was a specific problem with an untreated surface, road users could contact council officials..

Requests could also be made for a roadside salt box if certain conditions were satisfied, the spokeswoman said.

Tony Webster, spokesman for North Yorkshire County Council, said he was not aware of any major complaints about road gritting in the areas controlled by the authority.