Dozens of ambulance stations could be closed across the East Midlands under plans intended to improve emergency response times.

East Midlands Ambulance Service is preparing to launch a three-month public consultation next month on its proposed move towards a hub and spoke structure.

In the past three years the trust has seen five per cent more calls year on year, leaving it struggling to meet its response time targets.

It is looking to close 66 existing ambulance stations, which it says are largely empty during the day, and replace them with 13 hubs where specialist teams will prepare ambulances so paramedics do not have to run checks on their vehicles themselves.

The service will also create 131 “tactical deployment points” to replace the 153 existing standby locations, which can be in laybys or car parks. The service says these will offer staff better facilities, including toilets and hot drinks.

Selling the existing estate of ambulance stations will raise £29.8m, with the new system likely to cost £28.7m. An annual recurrent saving of £548,000 is anticipated after five years.

The plans have attracted public protests and opposition from Bassetlaw MP John Mann, who described the proposals as “absolute madness” and said lives would be “put at constant risk”.

Ambulance service chief executive Phil Milligan said: “We have seen some members of the public campaigning to save empty buildings. What we are not seeing yet is people looking rationally at what the benefits are and under this change programme they will get a much better deal.”

A full business case is due be presented to the trust board in January.

Last year the trust hit its target of reaching 75 per cent of patients with life-threatening conditions within eight minutes but only reached 92 per cent of such patients within 19 minutes, against a target of 95 per cent.