Savage cuts have today been blamed for leaving public services “stretched” as new figures show hundreds of patients were taken to A&E by police in just six months.
Lancashire Police has lost more than 700 officers since 2010 – with a further 800 jobs under threat – after having its budget slashed by central Government.
Yet new figures show officers used police vehicles to take people to hospital on 382 occasions between November and April – more than twice a day.
It comes after The Gazette revealed unprecedented demand led to the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) missing waiting times targets in almost half of the most serious cases in parts of the Fylde coast.
Ambulance chiefs say police have not raised the issue with them and claim the figures include minor cases where they were never called.
But the figures have prompted claims police are “propping up” other emergency services.
This is another indication of how public services are being stretched and the Government needs to address the situation we are facingClive Grunshaw
Clive Grunshaw, Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “This is another indication of how public services are being stretched and the Government needs to address the situation we are facing.
“One of my priorities is maintaining frontline policing and the extra demand this situation places on the police force inevitably means they are being taken away from the work they could otherwise be doing.”
Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show Lancashire Police only started recording the number of times its vehicles doubled as ambulances in November 2014.
Since then, its 382 trips to A&E are more than many forces notched up over three years.
Only the Met and Northumbria Police took more patients to hospital – although their figures cover the full year.
Just last month, the chairman of the national Police Federation Steve White said it “cannot be right” that police are frequently called on to take people to hospital.
He told the Federation’s national conference: “Already, we’ve got to a point where the police service is often propping up other public services that have been cut, too.
“But we are the service of last resort, which means we can’t say no.”