New response time targets will be set for South Western Ambulance Service (SWAS) in rural areas including Wiltshire.

It comes as SWAS has struggled to achieve the eight minute target to send an ambulance to the most urgent calls - such as cardiac arrest - in Wiltshire.

The target was set nationally and expects ambulances to reach a patient in eight minutes 75 per cent of the time.

Latest figures show that in the year to the end of February SWAS achieved 59 per cent in Wiltshire compared to 88.7 per cent in Swindon.

Broken down into local authority areas in Wiltshire, SWAS has revealed that it takes an ambulance typically 15 minutes to reach a patient in the Kennet area compared to six and a half minutes in Swindon. In North Wiltshire it takes 11.6 minutes and in West Wiltshire 9.18 minutes.

The performance of SWAS in Wiltshire mirrors that of its predecessor Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) which also failed to consistently meet the eight minute response target.

SWAS merged with GWAS in February 2013 and covers Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Avon, Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.

Neil Le Chevalier, deputy director of delivery at SWAS, told a joint scrutiny committee of councils in Trowbridge on Friday that SWAS had agreed to meet the national response targets trust wide this year but said they could not guarantee meeting them in each Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area.

Last year some GPs on Wiltshire CCG’s governing body said they thought a 20 minute response time would be more realistic.

Mr Le Chevalier said: “What we have promised to do is to set trajectories of what the minimum response target will be for each CCG area - what we should be achieving and working with CCGs on how to improve that. Money is not the solution, we have to look at more innovative ways.”

One initiative SWAS is doing is distributing 120 defibrillators to public places in Wiltshire as part of a £500,000 investment across Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Avon. In Wiltshire the locations identified so far include Westbury Railway Station and Southwick.

SWAS also wants to recruit more members of the public to be volunteer community responders, particularly in rural areas. They are trained to use a defibrillator.

Currently there are 171 volunteers in Wiltshire and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service have agreed that its retained fire fighters who are community responders can attend medical emergencies in their own car rather than go on a fire engine, as happens now.