Ambulance staff battling to save a nine-year-old car crash victim were told the nearest back-up crew could not help as they were on their lunch break.
Bethany Dibbs was struck by a car as she crossed the road on her scooter and ended up in a coma with a fractured skull.
An ambulance crew arrived and called for help, only to be told by their operator that under strict meal break regulations the closest additional crew still had a few minutes left on their lunch break.
The paramedics were informed it would take 20 minutes for another crew to arrive.
In the end one of them called their colleagues directly and they abandoned their lunch and raced to help.
They arrived only five minutes after the original crew and took Bethany to hospital.
An ambulance worker, who asked not be named, said: 'There isn't one staff member who would not go, but we have to be given two 30-minute meal breaks and can't be interrupted. It's a joke.'
Bethany's father Stephen 48, of Poole, Dorset, said: 'The world really has gone mad.
'My little girl was lying unconscious in the road and they are quoting statutory health and safety regulations? Every second counts in that situation.
'Bethany is recovering but she's still got a long way to go. We're waiting to find out whether she has any long-term brain damage.'
Mr Dibbs added: 'I can't fault the paramedics. They were fantastic. It is the system.'
A spokesman for the South Western Ambulance Service Trust said it took its health and safety duties seriously.
He added: 'In line with national guidelines which must be adhered to by all ambulance trusts, it is important all staff have dedicated 30-minute rest breaks which cannot be interrupted.'
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