Poor weather conditions and high demand have been partly blamed for the failure of the South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) to meet emergency call-out targets.
The ambulance service failed to meet the government target of responding to 75 per cent of the most serious calls (red one) within eight minutes in five months between June and February however, a spokesperson for SECAmb NHS Foundation Trust said that during the other half of that period the necessary targets were met.
Over the last 12 month period SECAmb, which covers Kent, Sussex and Surrey, answered 75.2 per cent of the most serious time-critical calls within target.
The ambulance service is recruiting staff but the spokesperson said that Kent was the key area that was in need of recruitment.
They added that in terms of red one calls in Sussex on average they receive around five a day and aim to reach all of these as quickly as possible, but if one of the calls was not reached within target this could take a big chunk off the percentage.
The spokesperson added, “SECAmb recognises the importance of response times and exceeded government targets by reaching 75.2 per cent of the most serious and life-threatening calls (Red 1 category) within eight minutes between April 2012 and March 2013.
“While response times are important what is also vital is the treatment patients receive once our clinicians arrive at the scene of an emergency.
“ We are pleased that the government now places a greater emphasis on patient outcomes as well as response times.
“This is something we had been calling for for a number of years.
“Along with all parts of the NHS, SECAmb has been and continues to be extremely busy.
“We recognise that there can be variation in our performance in terms of response times throughout the year.
“While every effort is made to meet our performance targets at all times, variation can exist because of challenging weather conditions or unanticipated increases in demand – for example at times over the Christmas period, 999 call volume was more than 20 per cent higher than the previous year.
“SECAmb staff are working extremely hard to meet this increase in demand and the Trust is committed to providing an excellent service to our patients across Kent, Surrey and Sussex.”