WEST Oxfordshire District Council is alarmed at being “fobbed off” about poor ambulance response times despite years of lobbying for improved services.
Figures show that only one in two ambulances responded to emergency calls within the required target time in the year 2013/14 to date.
The council has called for more ambulances to be based in the mainly rural district amid fears that South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) is covering too big an area.
Councillor Martin Barrett said: “The frustration in West Oxfordshire is that we’re being fobbed off and nobody is coming up with a solution.”
More ambulances should be based in the district, said Cllr Barrett, the council’s member on the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
The committee released a report last month showing that in West Oxfordshire only 52.4 per cent of ambulances responded to life-threatening “red” calls within eight minutes in the 2013-14 year so far.
This is well below the target of 75 per cent while Oxfordshire was 74.5 per cent, Cherwell 82.6, Oxford 91.6, South Oxfordshire 52.6 and Vale of White Horse 68 per cent.
In 2009, West Oxfordshire issued a report critical of ambulance services in its area. At that time, 54 per cent of calls were responded to within eight minutes.
In October the county fleet was increased from 21 to 26 to cope with extra demand.
But bosses say it would need 90 more to get to all urgent cases in eight minutes.
Councillor Mark Booty, the council’s deputy leader, said: “I don’t think the response time has improved a bit.”
Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron shares the concerns. He said: “It is not acceptable that any area, rural or otherwise, suffers a disadvantage and poor service must be rectified.”
David Roulston, director of Health Watch Oxfordshire, said the low response times were “not good enough”.
It raised the question whether SCAS, which covers Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Berkshire, was covering too big an area to provide a localised service, he said.
Cllr Booty disagreed that area coverage was the core issue, saying it was the “amount of resources”.
SCAS Operations Director Steve West said: “We have seen a significant challenge in the rise in demand on our services.
“We are always looking for new ways of working to ensure we get to patients as quickly as possible dependant on their clinical need.
“Community responders and a new co-responder initiative is coming to the area.
“Public access defibrillators have a vital part to play in supporting those with emergencies before we arrive on scene.
“We have launched an iPhone app which plots all the defibrillators in our area.”