DURSLEY was left without ambulance cover for three nights in a row this month and this is not an isolated incident in Gloucestershire, says a county paramedic.

Across the county there have been serious ambulance crew shortages, leaving staff struggling to get to emergency calls quickly enough.

On the weekend beginning Friday June 15, Dursley had no ambulance cover on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday night.

Crews had to come from Cirencester or Stroud to attend emergencies, which takes at least 20 minutes and can mean life or death for seriously ill patients.

On Saturday night, Dursley was covered by St John Ambulance, which is not an emergency ambulance service although staff are trained medics.

The Gazette heard about this situation from a county paramedic who posted a message entitled Enough is enough' on the Great Western Ambulance blog site, set up six months ago by an employee of the company for staff to share their views on management.

The county paramedic, who does not want to be named, wrote: "Dursley station had no ambulance whatsoever over the weekend. Cotswold ambulances sat idle with no crew to man them.

"St John crews are being run ragged. Crews getting meal breaks at the end of their shifts.

"The list is endless. If I personally was in charge of this outfit I would be utterly ashamed to call myself a manager.

"Truth of the matter is that the service is currently in meltdown and there is no way of stopping it."

The paramedic has said that the main problem is that when people are on holiday or call in sick they are not covered. Instead, ambulances sit useless with no crews.

A spokesman for Great Western Ambulance Service told the Gazette: "Ambulance crews across Gloucestershire managed to achieve a high number of eight minute responses (44) to Category A (life threatening) emergency calls on Saturday June16. This was the highest recorded since GWAS came in to being on April 1, 2006. Crews also fared similarly well on Sunday June 17.

"This was despite staff sickness, which meant that, at certain times, there were fewer ambulances and crews available than planned across the county.

"During Sunday night, this meant that nine rather than 13 vehicles were on call. Though Dursley was an affected station, two to three vehicles were available at nearby Stroud.

"Unpredictably, calls to 999 also achieved unprecedented highs during this period. On Saturday, call volumes were 25 percent higher than anticipated and on Sunday, they were 42 percent higher."

The anonymous paramedic, who worked the weekend that Dursley had no cover, said: "It was an absolute nightmare, casualties stacking up high, staff were struggling to get a meal break - if you even got one at all.

"Great Western might say this is a one off but it isn't. It happens all the time,"

In July Great Western Ambulances plan to cut Dursley's ambulance service by leaving them no crews between 2am-7am every day.

* If you have experienced problems with the ambulance service or have waited a long time for an ambulance to arrive recently please contact the Gazette with the details.