Almost a quarter of all ambulances rushing to attend “immediately life-threatening” (ILT) incidents in Dundee are late, new data has revealed.
Official ambulance service statistics show 76.5% of all ILT calls were reached in less than eight minutes.
The other 23.5% – 529 calls in all – were not reached within the target time.
However, the performance is an improvement on previous national figures and suggests that a recent overhaul of how paramedics respond to emergencies is reaping benefits.
The Scottish Ambulance Service published the figures covering August 1 2017 to July 31 this year following a request from the Evening Telegraph.
However, the ambulance service is currently in the midst of overhauling the way in which it responds to emergencies to ensure that those who are in the greatest need wait the shortest time.
It launched a new response system in 2016 which prioritises those at imminent risk of cardiac arrest over all other calls, dividing one high-priority category into two.
Those “purple” calls take priority over “red” calls, which involve those who may need resuscitation at the scene to prevent cardiac arrest.
In Dundee, 87.1% of all purple priority calls were attended within eight minutes, with a responder typically arriving within five minutes of a call.
And an ambulance was on the scene of just under three- quarters of lesser priority red calls (74.9%) in under eight minutes, with a typical wait being just over six minutes.
At present, ambulance chiefs expect just 75% of all ILT calls to be reached in eight minutes, meaning ambulances in Dundee are generally performing to expectations.
Figures for the entire East region, of which Dundee is part, show that just 62% of calls last year were attended within eight minutes, down from 65% in 2016.
However, those figures also include lower-priority calls, which are no longer included in the national statistics – meaning fewer incidents are tracked.
A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “The way we respond to 999 calls has changed – the sickest patients remain our highest priority, but for patients who are not critically ill, our call handlers spend more time on the phone to gain a better understanding of their needs.
“Some patients experience slower response times as a result, as we ensure they get the right resource, rather than the nearest, but another consequence is that we were able to save the lives of an additional 62 cardiac arrest patients last year.
“Longer response times may happen because a call was originally categorised as non-immediately life-threatening but was then upgraded to immediately life-threatening.
“We are recruiting and training an additional 1,000 paramedics for Scotland which will help reduce delays for patients.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “While response time is important, it is also the clinical expertise of ambulance teams that saves lives.”
North East Scottish Conservative MSP Bill Bowman (pictured) said: “My fear is that response times for the second tier of emergencies, the red band, have dipped under the 75% target. That’s just shy of 500 people in a year. Every second can make a difference.”