FIGURES released by Unison which show an apparent 80 per cent reduction in ambulance cover should be “taken with a pinch of salt”, according to the ambulance service.

A week after the union released the figures a spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service Trust said they only applied to one hour a day – in Watford.

She said that while other areas would also see a reduction in the number of ambulances available during the hour-long lull in demand, between 4am and 5am, rapid response vehicles would still be on call and for the rest of the day the region would see an increase in ambulance cover.

She said: “If Unison had quoted figures for any other of the 23 hours, they would have shown an increase in resources. The figures have to be taken with a pinch of salt – overall, our cover has actually improved.”

The reduction will be made following detailed analysis of demand across the East of England and is part of a service revamp aimed at helping the trust make savings of £50million over the next few years.

The revamp includes an investment in staff, including 114 emergency care assistants and 24 paramedics, 10 for Cambridgeshire.

The trust said that the 110 posts that Unison claimed they were cutting were “historical vacancies”.

The spokesman said: “We have managed without those roles for a number of years so we are taking them out of the system.”

The new technology used by EEAST to monitor demand means bosses can accurately pinpoint when demand is at its highest and which standby points are best placed for vehicles to get to the most patients in the shortest amount of time.

As a result, proposals have been drafted in preparation for discussion with staff which will see resources better matched to the needs of local communities.

The trust is also investing £400,000 to improve rural services to make better use of community first responders and reduce times spent at hospital.

Hayden Newton, EEAST chief executive, said: “We would like to reassure members of the public that these improvements will see patients benefit while we make more effective use of tax payers’ money and boost staff numbers.”

Unison officials claim the changes will have a “detrimental effect on the work life balance” of members.

Gary Applin, Unison branch secretary, added: “The public are going to suffer because of these cuts.”