PARAMEDICS are “gravely concerned”

that ambulance cost-cutting plans will hit the frontline, according to unions.

More than 70 jobs are to be cut by the North West Ambulance Service Trust (NWAS), which has to save £10.5 million from its budget.

It is too early to say whether this includes paramedics’ posts as bosses aim to lose jobs through early retirements and unfilled vacancies. But bosses admit plans to cut overtime could affect the vital emergency service.

The trust, which has around 4,000 staff, has already unveiled plans to close some of its 114 stations across the region, with Ramsbottom among those on the initial list being reviewed.

It can also be revealed that a review has recommended one of the North West’s three call centres should be closed.

Bosses said they had rejected those findings, from consultants Detica, for now, but confirmed they would review the situation again in three years.

Michael Oliver, Unison convenor, said only £6 million savings had so far been accounted for and feared the jobs total of 73 could increase.

He said: “We are gravely concerned that this could affect front-line services.

We are busier than ever at the moment and this could affect patients.

“We are struggling to hit our response targets as it is.”

A number of staff had been told to retire at 65 before the rules changed in April, Mr Oliver claimed.

A NWAS spokesman said the costcutting target was “particularly challenging”, and said the 73 jobs could be saved through “natural wastage”.

A report from finance director Alan Stuttard said the savings covered 4.2 per cent of the trust’s turnover.

He said a “key aim” of the programme was to minimise the impact on the front line.

But he added: “There is one scheme in particular which will have a potential impact on service delivery.

This is the scheme requiring a reduction in overtime.