AMBULANCE chiefs in North Yorkshire have hit back at claims paramedics who drive too fast while responding to life-or-death calls will face automatic disciplinary action.

Reports in national newspapers yesterday alleged Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) was one of 12 ambulance trusts across the UK who could bring proceedings against drivers if they broke the speed limit by as little as 10mph.

But the service said while it asked its staff to respect the rules of the road, they had leeway to use “training and common sense” to decide how fast they should travel when dealing with an emergency.

Police forces have already ruled that ambulance drivers will be spared prosecution if they exceed the speed limit in such situations, but the reports claimed NHS heads wanted to prevent this happening with the threat of disciplinary proceedings.

A spokeswoman for YAS said: “As part of our driver training programme, we encourage our staff to follow the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) guidelines in relation to what speed they travel in an emergency situation.

“However, our staff are trusted to use their training and common sense to make the best decision based on road safety and the condition of any patient on board.”

Unions representing paramedics have agreed that the speed ambulances travel in emergency situations should be left at the discretion of drivers and take account of the time factor involved and the road conditions.

Last year, YAS bosses admitted they needed to improve their response times after their performance was branded “weak’ for the third year in a row by health watchdog the Care Quality Commission.

Its assistant director of operations, Vince Larvin, said at the time that its reaction to attending accidents and emergencies within eight minutes of the call being received was “not good enough” and that they were about 20 seconds short of that target, but said the response-time gap was closing.