Opportunist thieves have been branded despicable after raiding an ambulance while paramedics were inside a house saving someone’s life.
They took vital supplies of oxygen and anaesthetic, forcing the ambulance off the road until it could be resupplied.
Northumbria Police’s Chief Insp Sarah Pitt described the crime as despicable.
She said: “I would appeal for anyone with information about this theft to contact one of our officers in Newcastle at once.”
The theft took place on Overfield Road in North Kenton, Newcastle, between 8.24pm and 8.50pm on Tuesday. Canisters of oxygen and Entonox – an equal mix of nitrous oxide and oxygen commonly called “gas and air” – were taken.
Alan Gallagher, head of risk and claims at the North East Ambulance Service, said: “All theft directly impacts on patient care, whether it is clinical equipment or not, as each incident needs to be investigated by the police.
“This takes a vehicle off the road while those inquiries are made, the stolen equipment is replaced and any damage repaired.” Misuse of Entonox, which has similar painkilling properties to drugs such as morphine, can cause increased pressure inside the skull and potentially lead to perforation of the ear drum, or in the longer term, poor balance, numbness, weakness, or bowel and bladder problems.
A spokeswoman for the ambulance service said it now hoped to catch the thieves using CCTV.
“This is something we take very seriously, even where the items taken may seem quite trivial,” she said.
“Even, about a year ago, when paramedics stopped outside a house and rushed in, opportunists saw the doors to the ambulance open and grabbed a rucksack containing nothing more than bandages and basic supplies that you might keep in a kitchen first aid box at home, that was serious.
“There was no intrinsic value to those items, but you never know what is going to be needed and if it’s found they are gone, then consequences could be quite serious. Paramedics might not be able to treat someone and it also means the ambulance has to spend some time off the road being restocked.”
In response to earlier thefts, the ambulance service has fitted vehicles with CCTV and hopes it may be able to identify the culprits using the footage.
Anyone with information should contact police on 101, quoting 47355F/13, or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.