AMBULANCE bosses are buying 120 defibrillators to put in public places in Wiltshire to try to improve its response times.
South Western Ambulance Service has consistently failed to meet the response times for Red calls – the most urgent calls such as cardiac arrests – in Wiltshire.
The service should attend Red calls in eight minutes 75 per cent of the time but in Wiltshire performance for the year to date is 58 per cent for Red 1 calls and 64 per cent for Red 2 calls.
The service has not reached the 75 per cent target in Wiltshire for the past ten months.
In places like Swindon SWAS exceeds the 75 per cent target and achieves about 88 per cent but bosses say the rural nature of Wiltshire means it is difficult for it to send ambulances within eight minutes.
On average SWAS attends three Red 1 calls a day in Wiltshire.
At a meeting of Wiltshire Council’s Health Select Committee on Tuesday Neil Le Chevalier, deputy director of delivery at SWAS said: “There’s no consistency where the the next heart attack is going to occur in Wiltshire.
“I can put an ambulance in Chippenham 24/7 365 days of the year at a cost of £650,000 but that won’t give you performance (the 75 per cent target) in Wiltshire.
Paul Burkett-Wendes, head of operations for the Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Avon area for SWAS, said: “You could spend millions and millions in Wiltshire but because of the rurality you will not hit the response times.”
Mr Le Chevalier said consultants who had analysed the service’s performance in Wiltshire to Red calls recommended that in order to meet response times another 400 hours of ambulance cover a week was needed, costing £1.1 million.
He said while SWAS was negotiating with Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group for more resources, he acknowledged that funding was limited and was looking at other ways of improving response times in Wiltshire.
These are increasing the number of volunteer community responders (members of the public who are trained to use a defibrillator) including retained fire fighters and buying 120 defibrillators to be placed in locations such as village squares, shopping centres and care homes.
The defibrillators, which are used on people who have suffered a cardiac arrest, will be distributed from April and the locations are currently being finalised.
Those in Wiltshire are part of a £500,000 investment in defibrillators for Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Avon by SWAS.
Mr Le Chevalier said SWAS also had one of the highest rates of non-conveyance (not taking patients to hospital) in Wiltshire compared to the rest of the country.
Of every 999 call it attends in Wiltshire SWAS does not take 47 per cent of patients to hospital. It either treats patients on the scene or refers them to another service where appropriate.