A paramedic has said the thieves who targeted Dereham ambulance station could be putting patients lives at risk by taking vital supplies of gas.

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More than 20 canisters of oxygen and entonox, known as gas and air, were taken from cabinets at the base off Littlefields in the early hours of Monday morning.

Paramedic Keith George said the fourth break-in two years has made him and his 11 other crew members feel vulnerable to more thefts.

“We are not a huge station but the oxygen is vital to use when we are with someone who is really poorly,” he said.

“If we have no oxygen on our vehicle that means that patients are going to suffer.

“It is like a second home to us. We all rely on each other here to the job that we do, so if someone breaks in here and takes our oxygen it is like taking a piece of our personal space.

“It is not about the value of these things. It is about the benefit for our patients. At this time of year there are more people suffering from breathing problems, so our demand for oxygen is higher.”

Last year thieves broke in to the station and stole a TV and months earlier other gas cylinders were taken.

Mr George said after those thefts requests were made to the East of England Ambulance Service Trust for CCTV cameras to be installed, but none had been installed.

There will be a meeting this week between police officers and the ambulance Trust to discuss security at the station.

The ambulance trust’s west Norfolk duty manager Sean McAuley said: “It’s really disappointing that someone would steal from us when we’re trying to save the lives of patients.

“Incidents like this can cause a huge inconvenience and we’re doing whatever we can to prevent theft.”

Mr George said it seems as though the base was specifically targeted because of its remote location.

The cylinders were kept outside for safety reasons, but now the cabinets will be moved and installed elsewhere.

Some of the larger cylinders taken weigh between eight and nine kilogrammes when full and would have needed a vehicle to transport.

Anyone with information about the thefts should call Dereham police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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