DESPITE an increase in the number of 999 calls received in the past year, paramedics succeeded in responding to incidents within the required target of eight minutes 75 per cent of the time.

In 2013-2014, the South Western Ambulance Service responded to 73.1 per cent of all 13,763 Red 1 calls – the most time critical incidents – within the expected timeframe. This was below the national average of 75.6 per cent.

Yet, response time to Red 2 calls -– serious yet less time critical incidents – reached 77.2 per cent, of all 295,515 call-outs.

This was well above the 74.8 per cent recorded in the rest of England.

Overall, this meant the emergency service met expected performance standards.

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust welcome the achievement, which it described as no small feat in the most rural area in the country.

“The Red 1 performance standard is a challenging one especially as SWASFT is the most rural ambulance service in the country and there is a direct correlation between rurality and performance,” said a SWASFT spokesman.

“While we only reached 73.1 per cent of Red 1 calls in eight minutes in 2013-14, we did arrive on scene within eight minutes and 17 seconds 75 per cent of the time.

“While getting to our patients in a timely fashion is extremely important, it is equally as important that we deliver the best possible care on arrival and SWASFT is one of the top performing ambulance trusts for the clinical care delivered by our staff.

“The Trust is also the top performing ambulance trust for not conveying patients to emergency departments where possible and appropriate.

“On average, more than 50 per cent of our patients are treated via other more appropriate care pathways within the community and not conveyed to emergency departments.”

Investment in additional ambulances and an increase in community responders allowed the service to meet residents’ needs despite receiving an extra 15,000 999 calls between 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, pushing the figure to 348,000.

He added: “Many new initiatives and investments have taken place since last year, including additional funding for extra ambulances alongside increasing the number of community responders and better access to community defibrillators.

“These initiatives have ensured that our patients not only get the best possible care but that they receive it as quickly as possible.

“Demand for ambulance services continues to rise which means we need to constantly review our operational plans to make sure we are able to provide the right care, in the right place, at the right time, for every one of our patients.

“Last Sunday, compared to the same Sunday in 2013, saw demand increase by 20 per cent.”