PRIVATE ambulance staff are being employed after NHS ambulances failed to reach targets for emergency response times.

The move has angered staff, including Andy Kibble, a paramedic for 20 years, who works from Ledbury Ambulance Station.

Figures show that Hereford and Worcester Ambulance Service NHS Trust failed to reach monthly response targets requiring it gets to 75 per cent of life-threatening within eight minutes.

From April 1, 2004 to January 26, 2005 the trust only answered 74.1 per cent of life-threatening calls within the time.

Last year, the trust met all its performance targets.

As a result, two paramedics from private company Medi Logistics have been employed for two weeks to help it meet the targets.

Mr Kibble, chairman of the trust's Unison branch, said: "A lot of our staff are up in arms about this."

He said private staff were being paid £15 an hour, while a trust paramedic can expect to earn around £9.80.

"If they're paying staff £15 an hour, how much are the trust paying Medi Logistics?" said Mr Kibble. "Our staff are a bit upset they weren't offered the overtime and the extra money."

In a joint statement, the trust's chief executive Russell Hamilton and Pete Green, for Hereford and Worcester Unison, said the trust was committed to working with its staff and engaging them in decision-making but, on this occasion, it had to act quickly to ensure a safe and effective service.

"The trust recognises that whilst the use of bank and agency staff is commonplace throughout the NHS, some staff are not comfortable with this decision, as this trust has not previously done this," said the statement, which added that, as the trust modernises, there would be occasions when new methods of working were used.

"In doing so the trust reaffirms its commitment to its workforce, who are hugely dedicated and do an outstanding job within the local community."