A SWINDON ambulance worker has hit back at what he calls “unrealistic response targets” after figures showed Great Western Ambulance Service was under-performing.

The GWAS employee, who asked not to be named, believes response times will suffer in the coming months as paramedics are repeatedly called out to people with runny noses who suspect they have swine flu.

“These response times are ridiculous,” he said.

“We try our damnedest to reach everyone within the eight minute target but sometimes we simply can’t. It doesn’t seem fair that this constitutes failure.

“I’d like to say these things will get better but with swine flu at pandemic level we’re going to be getting more and more calls to people who have what you or I would categorise as the ‘sniffles’.

“The fact is we are here for accidents or emergencies – swine flu is neither unless you are suffering from ongoing respiratory problems.”

The medic was responding to new figures that reveal GWAS is not meeting Government performance targets.

In the year to April this year, GWAS responded to 233,254 emergency calls.

The new figures, released by GWAS yesterday, show that for life-threatening ‘Category A’ calls, for which the target response time is eight minutes for 75 per cent of incidents, GWAS performance between April 1 and June 30 was 74.94 per cent.

Its performance for 2008-09 fell considerably short of national targets at 68.4 per cent, demonstrating that while a significant improvement had been made the service still had to do better.

For Category A incidents requiring transport to hospital, the national target is that 95 per cent of calls are reached within 19 minutes. In the relevant period, GWAS achieved 94.63 per cent.

For Category B calls – serious but not life-threatening incidents – the target is that 95 per cent of calls should be reached within 19 minutes.

So far this year, performance is 92.4%, compared to 87.2 per cent for last year as a whole.

David Whiting, who took over as GWAS chief executive on April 1 this year, said: “The second half of last year saw considerable additional investment in the service alongside the development of robust improvement plans.

“Meeting national targets is about providing better patient care, which is at the heart of everything we do.

“In two recent national surveys conducted by the Care Quality Commission and its predecessor, the Healthcare Commission, our staff were praised by patients for excellent patient care and were rated significantly better than the national average.

“Clearly we still have work to do but these figures show how far we have come over the last six months.”