UNION leaders say they are considering strike action against the North West Ambulance Service amid claims of 'excessive mileage'.

Shop stewards at Unite Unison and the GMB have argued that a calls management system which sees ambulance staff having to drive up to 40 minutes to reach casualties is leaving members "exhausted".

Royal College of Nursing representatives have also expressed "deep concern" about the situation.

Ambulance chiefs says the current mode of operation has been in place for 12 months.

But their own latest performance figures show they have failed to hit several call-out performance targets for April.

The three unions say they will now hold a consultative ballot on possible industrial action.

Their main concern is with the number of ambulances driving across the region to answer'Category Two' (C2) urgent calls, classified as cases which should be reached within >> minutes.

Unite branch secretary Neil Cosgrove said: “We are hearing of crews driving 40 minutes, under emergency conditions which is hazardous at any time, and then to be sent somewhere else and drive for another 40 minutes. This can be repeated several times in one shift.

“The ambulance crews are seeing and treating fewer patients, but driving for longer times and further distances.

“For some time, Unite has raised serious concerns with the management about the way in which these changes have been introduced and are now currently operating.

“They are having a significant adverse impact on our members’ physical and mental health and welfare, as well as posing a significant risk to patient care. This is no longer acceptable."

Chris Grant, NWAS medical director, said: “This procedure, known as EOC0001, has been in operation for over 12 months and allows ambulance crews to travel up to 40 minutes to attend a category two incident – these are serious, but not immediately life-threatening incidents including strokes, seizures and burns.

"Due to the trust facing a significant increase in 999 demand, and the reporting of longer waits, fully implementing the procedure is realising improvements for patients.

“Because of the large volume of these calls, these patients are frequently waiting longer than they should for a response – this can lead to a rise in the number of serious untoward incidents (SUIs).

“EOC0001, allows us to send resources to which are further away rather than wait for a closer resource to become available, and so far the results are positive with less reported SUIs for this category.

“We do understand the view that some staff will be travelling for longer to reach the patients but those patients need us and in all consciousness, we cannot deny those individuals a faster response during their time of need, when there are available resources just that little bit further away or out of the area.”

The target for reaching C2 calls is 18 minutes but the average time for 2021, up to April, was more than 23 minutes.

Ambulance bosses were told that the number of Category 1 emergency and C2 calls had markedly increased since lockdown measures were eased.