PARAMEDICS and patients in Somerset will be put at risk by Government plans to raise the retirement age, public sector union UNISON claims.

Ambulance staff, many of whom retire early due to ill health, would be expected to give up work at 66 rather than the current 60.

UNISON branch secretary and paramedic Alan Lofthouse said: “I don’t think it’s practical to ask a 66-year-old paramedic to lift a patient into the back of an ambulance – it’s a danger to them and to their patient.

“Work in the ambulance service is mentally and physically demanding and involves dealing with very stressful and dangerous situations.

“Disabilities and long-term health problems are already common among older ambulance staff, which places financial pressures on them and their families, as well as on the welfare system.

“The Government should review the pensionable age increase for ambulance staff and make us comparable with the other emergency services – (police officers and firefighters retire at 55).

“Ambulance crew do a difficult job and deserve to retire with a reasonable pension at an age when they’re still fit to see their retirement.”

Mr Lofthouse added that UNISON believes the Government cuts are increasing the workload of those in the service to breaking point.

He said that an increase in obese patients has led to more manual handling and industrial injuries.

The Government says it needs to raise the retirement age and higher paid public sector workers will need to make bigger pension contributions because people are living longer.