Emergency services have moved to back their staff after selfies of firefighters, police and paramedics at a crash appeared online.

A police officer responsible for taking the pictures has apologised for posting the images, which were taken when the crews attended a four vehicle collision on the A171 between Scarborough and Whitby on Tuesday morning.

The pictures show the staff grinning and putting their thumbs up as they waited for recovery vehicles to arrive, and were accompanied by the hashtag #professionalsatwork Minutes earlier they had been helping casualites, who were not seriously injured, but required hospital treatment.

The pictures sparked national furore online, leading to North Yorkshire police defending their every day use of social media.

A spokeswoman for North Yorkshire police: “The officers in the photograph had dealt with the collision and were waiting for the recovery vehicles to arrive prior to opening the road.

"Although these are the front-line members of staff who work with each other on an all too regular basis, dealing with tragedy on our roads every day, thankfully, on this occasion, no-one was seriously injured.

“Social media is a valuable tool for the emergency services and is used every day by hundreds of officers and staff to engage and inform members of the public and to help us prevent and detect crime.

“The officer who took the photo has apologised if any offence has been caused, particularly to the people involved in the collision.”

Dave McCabe, area manager for North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, confirmed an investigation will be carried out.

He said: "We are not aware of any of our staff posting selfies at the incident this morning on the A171 on social media, although we are aware that several have been posted by another emergency service.

"We will be carrying out an investigation into this occurrence and are, therefore, unable to comment further at this time.”

A spokeswoman for Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust said the snaps did not breach confidentiality.

She added: “We are assured the photograph was taken by the police officer in innocence and did not breach patient confidentiality.”