AMBULANCES are taking too long to respond to life-threatening calls in Croydon and across London, a report has said.
London Ambulance Service (LAS) is expected to get to 'Red' calls – including cardiac arrest and traumatic injuries – within eight minutes in 75 per cent of cases.
In Croydon, ambulance crews missed that target in May and June, responding to the most serious incidents within eight minutes in 72.9 per cent and 69.9 per cent of cases respectively.
The target was also missed across London as a whole prompting "serious concern", a report by Croydon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said.
LAS blamed rising response times on increasing demand and urged people to call 999 only when it was a "genuine" emergency.
The highest priority calls are designated Red 1 (cardiac arrest or life-threatening injury) and Red 2 (serious breathing difficulty or suspected stroke). They are classified as an immediate danger to life and require an emergency response with blue lights.
Year-to-date figures up until August 10 showed LAS was reaching Red 1 and Red 2 calls within eight minutes 72 per cent and 66 per cent of the time. In Croydon, paramedics are currently missing the target by an average of 35 seconds.
The issue has been raised at senior levels within the LAS and discussed with London's 32 CCGs, the NHS Trust Development Authority and NHS England.
Dr Agnelo Fernandes, assistant clinical chair at Croydon CCG said: "We have raised our concerns, and we are in regular discussions with LAS to explore ways of improving performance in Croydon.
"This is an issue across London, not just in Croydon, so we have also spent time with NHS colleagues from across the region looking at possible solutions."
Kevin Brown, deputy director of operations at LAS, said more staff were being recruited to cope with demand.
"Every year demand on our service increases and we are responding to nine per cent more incidents than last year," he said.
"This means it can take longer to reach some patients than we would like, however, we always prioritise our response to people who are more seriously ill and injured and we are recruiting more staff and giving more telephone advice to help us respond more quickly.
"Croydon residents can help us by only calling in a genuine emergency and using other healthcare providers such as calling 111 or visiting their GP or walk-in centre for less serious injuries and illnesses."
This last point was questioned by Dr Onkar Sahota, chairman of London Assembly's Health Committee, who said patients were "confused" by the "cocktail" of services and advice on offer, such as calling non-emergency numbers and seeing a GP.
"As a result they choose something which is convenient and they trust," he said.
"When faced with so many choices, of course people will call for an ambulance. It may later turn out to have been inappropriate, but that's what they do in an emergency.
"Whether the call is inappropriate can only be decided later. When someone has a severe headache it could be a migraine, or it could be a burst blood vessel in the head. You can only make the judgement after you have seen the patient."