A paramedic has been accused of ignoring a man who suffered a broken back - because he was refuelling his ambulance and was on his break.

Instead Robert Chambers told the man - who was in agony - to wait for another ambulance before driving off.

Mr Chambers, from East Sussex, appeared yesterday (WED) at a conduct and competence hearing of the Health Professions Council.

He admitted a lack of competence for refusing to help but denied misconduct following the incident in Lewes on Boxing Day 2006.

Mr Chambers - who has been a paramedic for 18 years - said he regrets leaving the man in the car park.

He added: "It was the biggest cock-up off my life.

"But it was a simple mistake - there was no malice involved.

"We weren't thinking we can't be bothered."

Emily Carter, solicitor for the Health Professions Council, explained how on this date the patient had injured his back while at a fox hunt on the Sussex Downs.

She said: "He was transported by friends to a Tesco car park in Lewes.

"But due to the pain he was unable to get transported.

"A friend called the emergency services and he was assessed as a category B patient - which was not life threatening.

"However at that moment a friend of the patient noticed an ambulance refuelling at a nearby petrol station.

"Therefore he approached that crew and spoke to the registrant [Robert Chambers] who was refuelling.

"He explained that his friend had hurt his back but was told by the registrant that the crew were off duty and were refuelling."

Astonished, the friend then returned to his injured pal and told him the news and watched as the ambulance crew - who were due a break after six hours on the road - drove off.

Miss Carter said the crew had advised the patient's friend that another ambulance would be on the way.

The hearing, in at Avonmouth House in South London, was told the crew was "comprehensively stood down" at 1:00pm on 26 December.

Mr Chambers refused to help the injured man just 16 minutes later - which was during his half-hour break.

Miss Carter added: "This did not prevent him from voluntarily assisting should the need arise."

A transcript of a conversation between Mr Chambers's ambulance and the control centre was read out.

The operator said: "I know you're off the road at the moment but it looks like you're there - I thought I would let you know in case you were approached.

"He said (Chambers said) 'I believe it's a gentleman who has hurt his back - I explained there's probably an ambulance on its way'.

However, in another blunder an emergency ambulance car was sent to the scene - but did not have the necessary space or equipment to transport a suspected back injury.

He was then placed in an emergency silver space blanket and given painkillers.

It took a further 40 minutes for a proper ambulance from nearby Uckield to arrive and take the patient [CC] to hospital - administering him morphine on the way.

During that time he described his pain threshold as being eight to nine out of 10.

He was later signed off work with an anterior fracture to his lumbar vertebrae.

Mr Chambers admitted his actions were "wrong" and apologised at a South East Coast Ambulance service disciplinary hearing on March 9 2007.

Yesterday he admitted a lack of competence but denies misconduct or impairment - and could be struck off.

Natalie Misczanyn, his union representative from Unison, said: "He accepts the facts of the allegations but does not accept misconduct or impairment.

"He accepts lack of competence."

Later in the hearing Chris Ford, project manager for South East Coast Ambulance service, admitted there was a “lack of clarity” in the guidelines for whether ambulance crews should respond to emergencies when on their break.

He said emergency despatch control room staff are unable to command ambulance crews to respond to emergencies when they are on breaks - known as “compulsory stand downs” (CSDs).

He said: “The person in emergency despatch would speak to the crew to suggest that although they are compulsorily stood down would they respond, rather than give them a direct requirement to respond.

“That’s the difficulty for everybody - they are unable to command them to attend an incident.

“They are just making the crew aware - they are allowing them to make the decision.

“There’s some uncertainty how you interpret compulsory stand down.”

He added that was why he recommended Mr Chambers should not have been suspended for his actions in the aftermath of the incident.

However Mr Ford said there is a “general understanding” rather than written rules that if a member of the public asks an ambulance crew for assistance that they should help.

Mr Chambers’ union representative Natalie Misczanyn said there were no explicit guidelines telling ambulance crews to respond during a break.

She said: “It’s Mr Chambers’ case that the document didn’t exist at that time.

“Another crew took 30 minutes to attend because they too were on a break they had to finish.”

It emerged at the hearing that calls were being missed on a much wider scale - because of a lack of transparency regarding “compulsory stand downs”.

Mr Ford revealed: “Category A calls [most serious emergency calls] might be missed because of compulsory stand down.”

However Miss Misczanyn said in Mr Ford’s original statement he remarked that because of the uncertainty category A calls were “definitely” being missed.

The hearing conludes today.