HAMPSHIRE’S ambulance service is struggling to fill almost 170 vacancies after being hit by a national shortage of NHS staff.

South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) needs scores of extra personnel, including people who handle the ever-increasing number of 999 calls which flood in every day.

The service is holding a recruitment open day today as part of a campaign to boost staffing levels.

Managers have had to call on agency staff and private providers as a result of posts becoming vacant, often a a result of people retiring, being promoted or landing new jobs.

Last night SCAS denied that frontline services had been affected, saying it was not short of paramedics.

Two months ago it was revealed that SCAS was one of only two ambulance trusts in the country which was meeting national performance targets.

A SCAS spokesman said: “There are no current vacancies for paramedics, although the Trust continues to invest in developing our paramedic workforce, helping us to meet future demand on the service.

“As part of a new national deployment initiative, the Trust is now recruiting emergency care assistants (ECAs).”

Vacancies for clinicians, 999 call handlers and ambulance care assistants will be among those advertised at the recruitment day, which will include tours, live demonstrations and a chance to view vehicles used by the service.

Staff will give advice on how to apply for jobs and colleagues from Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust will also be present.

Human resources manager Victoria Dooley said: “We’re one of the most successful and innovative ambulance trusts in the country.

“As demand for our services continues to grow, so too does our organisation. We don’t just offer jobs but can also give you a rewarding and satisfying career.”

A recent survey of the ten NHS regions revealed that ambulance services were short of almost 1,000 frontline staff, including paramedics.

SCAS currently has 168 vacancies, compared with 350 in January 2018.

Last year health service unions claimed that ambulance staff were quitting as a result of “intolerable” pressures, including long shifts. However, SCAS managers said the variety of choices available to employees was contributing to the shortage.

One said: “Fifteen years ago a paramedic would start and finish their career with us, but now they can work in minor injury units and GP surgeries.”

The recruitment day is being held at Southern House, Sparrowgrove, Otterbourne, from 10am to 2pm.