AMBULANCE services in the region could be merged as part of Government plans to reform the NHS, it was revealed last night.

Under proposals outlined by the Department of Health, the North East Ambulance Service NHS Trust (NEAS), which covers from Berwick to Darlington, will be extended to include Teesside.

Ambulance services on Teesside are part of the Tees, East and North Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust. The proposed change would lead to a trust covering Yorkshire and Humberside.

The plans are intended to simplify ambulance trust boundaries across the country.

If the move is backed after public consultation, it will result in 11 enlarged ambulance services and the disappearance of many of the existing 31 ambulance trusts.

It is only six years since the smaller County Durham ambulance service was merged with the Northumbria service.

A spokesman for the NEAS said: "I understand that the proposals to reconfigure the number of ambulance trusts is an administrative issue that will free-up resources for investment.

"We have been told that, under these proposals, there would be no reduction in ambulance vehicles or front-line staff, but instead fewer, larger trusts will mean less unnecessary bureaucracy and more money to invest in services.

"Any change, of course, will be subject to a public consultation."