AMBULANCE stations could be closed with vehicles parked on roadsides waiting for calls, if changes under consideration come into force.

It is feared that just nine of the county's 31 stations could remain after the Essex Ambulance Service shake-up which is designed to improve response times to incidents.

However, employees at the busy Harlow ambulance station in Wych Elm, are confident they will not be affected by the slim-lining, and say stations which have fewer call-outs are more at risk of being axed.

They claim the measures could improve the service at the Harlow station as they have been promised an extra urgent support vehicle manned with more paramedics to attend emergency calls.

Commenting on the re-organisation Harlow ambulance station's Assistant Divisional Commander Paul Barratt said: 'As far as Harlow goes I don't think it will make any difference whatsoever.

'Harlow is an area of quite high demand. We will probably get an extra vehicle.'

Under proposals, stations with low demand will close and ambulances will be parked in car parks and lay-bys while crews could share other premises such as GP surgeries and clinics or fire stations.

Essex Ambulance Service chief executive Gron Roberts explained: 'Many of our 31 stations were built in the 1950s and are in the wrong place to meet today's emergency demands.

'It makes little sense to keep buildings which are not in the best place to meet demand. It's ambulance crews and vehicles which ultimately save lives, not ambulance stations.'

He said £1.25m investment had been secured to employ 58 extra staff and purchase more vehicles, which would help get ambulances to people needing them in the quickest possible time.

Mr Roberts added that a detailed study of emergency demand revealed ambulances were needed to cover 25 key points, many of which did not include existing ambulance stations.

Essex Ambulance Service spokeswoman Victoria Spurr said no stations had been earmarked for the chop at this stage but indicated that Harlow could be safe from the axe.

She said: 'Nothing has been finalised yet. We are considering all of them. It's likely to be the stations were there isn't so much activity during the day or night that might be amalgamated, but there is a lot of activity surrounding Harlow.

'The plans are still very much at the formulative stage and we are consulting staff, the public and other people who will naturally be concerned at changes of this kind.'