DISGUSTED ambulance staff have hit out at heartless thieves who ransacked their vehicles while they were busy taking patients into hospital.

Two satellite navigation systems worth hundreds of pounds were taken from the two ambulances while they were parked outside the accident and emergency department of the Royal Bournemouth Hospital. A mobile phone was also stolen.

Dorset Police are currently investigating the thefts.

South Western Ambulance Service said the loss of vital satellite navigation systems and the time taken to report the incident could have resulted in a delay in reaching patients.

In a statement, the ambulance service NHS trust said the crew members concerned were "understandably shocked and angry" at discovering they had been targeted while assisting patients.

And Ken Wenman, chief executive of the trust, added: "I was angry to learn of these mindless thefts, which could have resulted in the unnecessary delay in attending seriously ill or injured patients.

"I sincerely hope that the assailants are caught and prosecuted because stealing directly from the two ambulances could have had far reaching consequences.

"I cannot understand why anyone would steal from an ambulance, which compromises patient care and disrupts the excellent service provided by our staff."

The thefts occurred on the evening of Friday, June 6. Anyone who witnessed the incident or has any information should contact Dorset Police on 01202 222222 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.