Paramedics could take longer to reach emergencies after NHS bosses decided to downgrade Gildersome Ambulance Station because of high heating costs, it has been claimed.
The Wakefield Road station will become a standby point for ambulances rather than a base for Yorkshire Ambulance Service crews.
Around 50 staff including paramedics, technicians and emergency care assistants will be moved to Leeds’ resource centre in Beeston.
Trust bosses said response times would not be compromised as a result of the move. However, paramedic Julie Sagar, who has worked at the station for over 20 years, said: “It will make a corridor of extended response times at the top of the Morley area in Drighlington, Tingley, Gildersome. Traffic in White Rose and Elland Road in mornings, evenings and sales periods is bad and you can’t make three lanes out of a two-lane road.
“The management told us that the station was costing too much to heat. A lot of staff are upset and have spoken to MPs.”
Standby points are places where crews take breaks or wait between call-outs. They are often lay-bys or car parks.
It will make a corridor of extended response times at the top of the Morley area in Drighlington, Tingley, Gildersome.Julie Sagar, paramedic
Mrs Sagar, 48, said around a third of staff would have to travel up to 30 minutes extra every shift as a result of the changes.
She said: “We will have a number of staff working around 80 hours a year more because of the increased travel time. It will affect family life too.
“A large number of staff have had to put transfers in to other stations so it’s breaking up staff who have worked together for years. It’s chaotic at the moment – you walk in and people ask what is happening because nobody knows.”
The service’s head of emergency operations, John McSorley, said: “We’ve been talking to staff for some time about changing the use of the ambulance station into a facilitated standby point with toilet and kitchen amenities and spaces for a number of vehicles so the area retains 24/7 ambulance presence.”
He said the change would be seamless and local patients would still receive “responsive, high quality clinical service.”
Members of Unite the Union – which represents around 450 staff in the service – have concerns about the loss of stations and the increasing number of standby points.
Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe said: “Stations like ambulances, fire and police, form part of the community and make people feel safer because of the presence. The service is cutting a station out of a geographical area.”
The changes are expected to take place in June.