Health officials in Warwickshire have voiced their opposition to the planned merger of ambulance services across the Midlands.

The Government has proposed merging four ambulance trusts to create a giant regional service, stretching across Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Shropshire and Herefordshire, as well as the West Midlands conurbation.

Coventry City Council's health scrutiny board has criticised the reorganisation and said the Department of Health's hoped-for benefits from the proposals were overstated and outweighed by the risks posed.

The board chairman Councillor Joe Clifford said: "Forced unions are rarely a good idea and I am not convinced that as far as Coventry and Warwickshire Ambulance Services are concerned the proposal to create one of the biggest ambulance services in the world has been well thought out."

The recently-created Coventry and Warwickshire Ambulance Trust has already played a key part in the local health service, hospital and social care team, said Coun Clifford.

Warwickshire County Council has already rejected the proposals and Staffordshire MPs have demanded the merger be put on hold until every service comes up to the standard of their county's service which has been rated as the best in the country.

NHS organisations in the West Midlands and health watchdogs responsible for patient welfare have also expressed concerns.

Petitions from worried residents in the affected areas each have been taken to Westminster and will be delivered to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt.

* Staffordshire Ambulance Service has appointed Geoffrey Catling as acting chief executive following the departure of Roger Thayne.