‘FAILING’ ambulance response times in Gloucestershire have provoked action from the county council.
Councillors have decided to write to the South West Ambulance Service (SWASFT) calling for urgent improvements on ‘worrying’ response times.
The SWASFT has a target to respond to 75 per cent of calls within eight minutes.
In May, the council unanimously voted through a motion to look into the issue.
But research over the last six months has shown that this figure is still being missed across the county, particularly in rural and remote areas like Stroud.
In October, an investigation was launched after a youth player at Forest Green Rovers had to wait 80 minutes for an ambulance after breaking bones in is back during a match in Nailsworth.
The council’s Health and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee has also looked into the issue, concluding that not enough progress is being made.
At a meeting of the full council last week members unanimously voted to write to SWASFT.
The motion called on the council’s leader and the chief executive to write to the chief executive of SWASFT asking for specific actions planned to tackle failing response times.
Stroud district was among those highlighted for specific examination.
The motion was proposed by councillor Paul Hodgkinson (Liberal Democrat), who said: "My call for ambulance response times to radically improve has been backed unanimously by the council.
“Now what I would like to see are some real improvements across the rural parts of our county in particular.
“I'm keen to hear how the council's health committee gets on in exploring whether the service could be brought back into the county rather than regional.
“We have to look at all options and the unanimous vote yesterday sent a clear message that things must improve.
Cllr Lesley Williams (Stonehouse), leader of the Labour group said: “Improving ambulance response times must always be a priority for SWASFT as a way to ensure patient safety, and we welcome the Trust’s improved results in urban parts of our county.
“However, we back calls for more to be done in rural areas and we will be open to hearing how a Gloucestershire only ambulance service may improve response rates.
“It is important that all Gloucestershire residents are confident that there is a responsive ambulance service.
“The health scrutiny committee can now explore all the options that could achieve this which could include a county service.”
A spokesperson from SWASFT said: “Whilst we continue to see improvements in our performance across the South West, we are still finding it a challenge to meet response times in our more rural areas, especially parts of Gloucestershire.
“The low number of calls and the wide geographical spread of incidents in rural areas means that journey times can exceed the eight minute target.
“We have a number of initiatives in place that will improve our response performance in rural areas as well as delivering even better care.
“These include community responder schemes, the installation of public access defibrillators and defibrillators within care homes.
“These initiatives do not change the priority or category of a 999 call they just ensure that a patient suffering a life-threatening emergency can begin to receive the required care in the crucial first few minutes of an emergency while an ambulance is en route.
“There is currently a national shortage of paramedics so the trust is very focussed on recruitment – this has been a struggle in the Gloucestershire area but by early next year we expect to have filled all outstanding vacancies.”