Seriously ill patients are being taken to hospital in police cars because of a lack of ambulances, says a North East Crime Commissioner.
Durham Police and Crime Commissioner, Ron Hogg, said at a time of dwindling force numbers, officers were having to deal with “critically-ill” patients and that the problem had increased recently.
The North East Ambulance Service said some police officers were making the decision to take some patients.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird yesterday expressed her concerns over the use of police cars to take patients to hospital, saying: “Police vehicles are a valuable resource and essential in reducing crime. It’s clearly not ideal for them to be used to take people to hospital.
“These situations are often life or death, and it’s in the tradition of the police service that officers will do everything they can to protect members of the public and step in where necessary.
“While, this is commendable, it’s not right that the police service should be doing the role of another emergency service.”
Mr Hogg said it was a dilemma for officers first on the scene of an accident whether or not to take casualties to hospital if an ambulance was delayed.
He said: “I’m very concerned about this for a number of reasons.
“First, police officer numbers are diminishing and, when people need medical attention, police officers are not the best people to be giving them that.
“Most people who require to go to accident and emergency are not critical but there are instances, because of a lack of availability of ambulances, when the police service is the last resort.”
But Paul Liversidge, spokesman for the North East Ambulance Service, said: “I can assure you in the North East area there are no life-threatening or dying patients being put into the back of police cars.
“The officers on the scene are making the decision to take patients in the back of their cars.”