PRIME Minister David Cameron has told ambulance managers they must sort out failures to get to patients in his constituency with life-threatening conditions.
South Central Ambulance Service has not met targets to get to three-quarters of the most urgent emergencies within eight minutes across large parts of Oxfordshire. Mr Cameron said the situation had to be “rectified as a matter of urgency”.
In Mr Cameron’s West Oxfordshire constituency, South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse, South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) has failed to meet the Government target in the past three years.
Figures revealed the situation was worst in December, when patients were only reached within eight minutes in West Oxfordshire and South Oxfordshire 52.8 per cent of the time.
West Oxfordshire councillors said SCAS would be called in for “a grilling”.
But SCAS said it had received unprecedented demand last year and plans to buy more ambulances.
Mr Cameron said: “Clearly the time it takes to respond to a life-threatening event is critical and measuring response times is one important indicator towards the effectiveness of the service.
“It is not acceptable that any area, rural or otherwise, suffers a disadvantage. Poor service must be rectified as a matter of urgency.”
Hilary Biles, county councillor for Chipping Norton, said: “They are appalling figures and the situation has not improved at all.”
She said SCAS was putting patients’ lives at risk and said more ambulances needed to be located in rural areas.
Mrs Biles had to wait 50 minutes for an ambulance about three years ago after her doctor called one to her home in Shipton-under-Wychwood for what she said was a life-threatening emergency.
West Oxfordshire District Council has twice issued a vote of no confidence in SCAS in the last four years.
Councillor Louise Chapman said: “We need to get someone [from the ambulance service] along for a grilling. Whether it is in a rural village or a city, a life is a life.”
Councillor Pete Handley said: “We are very, very concerned about this. It has been going on for such a long time and it is not good enough.”
In 2011/12, the ambulance service reached 68.8 per cent of patients in eight minutes in West Oxfordshire, 71.2 per cent in the Vale and 61.2 per cent in South Oxfordshire.
The previous year, 2010/11, it achieved 61.6 per cent in West Oxfordshire, 72.1 per cent in the Vale and 68 per cent in South Oxfordshire.
The eight-minute response time is a Government deadline based on getting a defibrillator to the patient. It can be done by community first responders.
The national average for immediate life-threatening responses within eight minutes was 74.8 per cent in 2012/13 to date, according to the Department of Health.
Ambulance bases are located in the Churchill Hospital in Oxford, Broadway in Didcot, Langford Lane in Kidlington and Trinity Way in Adderbury. There are also a number of standby points across the county, where ambulances can wait.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “We expect every ambulance trust to look at the data for their region and make improvements to ensure they are performing at the highest level.”
SCAS spokesman James Keating-Wilkes said: “We have finite resources and deploy ambulances where they will do the most good for the most people, according to historic demand profiling.”
SCAS has one ambulance per 33,000 head of population, the equivalent of 21 ambulances serving the county,