AMBULANCES are failing to respond to the most serious calls in Croydon quickly enough and the numbers reaching patients inside their target time have fallen significantly, data shows.
Only 54 per cent of ambulances on a so-called "red" call – which includes cardiac arrest and traumatic injuries – in the borough arrived within eight minutes in October, according to the latest figures from London Ambulance Service (LAS).
It represents 19 per cent drop in performance since May, when LAS was two per cent shy of the service's Government-set target that 75 per cent of the most urgent calls be reached in the eight minute target.
And while the LAS response in Croydon was better than the London average in May, it was four per cent worse in October.
LAS said a rise in calls in the borough and a nationwide shortage of paramedics was to blame.
Sarah Jones, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Croydon Central, said she would raise the issue with Richard Hunt, the chairman of London Ambulance Service, after being contacted by concerned residents. She said: "These figures raise real concerns that more lives are being put at risk in Croydon. For people in a life-threatening state, every second counts and that is why this slump in standards cannot continue."
Kevin Brown, LAS's deputy director of operations, said a national and international campaign had been launched to bring in 1,000 more front line staff in 2015. A shortage of paramedics in the UK had been making it difficult to recruit new staff, he added.
"Every year demand on our service increases and we are responding to nine per cent more patients in a serious and life-threatening condition in Croydon compared to last year," he said.
"Residents in Croydon can help us by thinking before calling for an ambulance and using other healthcare providers where possible, such as calling NHS 111 or visiting their GP or walk-in centre for less serious injuries and illnesses."
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.
In September Croydon Clinical Commissioning Group expressed concerns to LAS that the ambulance performance measure had dropped from 72 per cent in May to 66 per cent in June.
A spokesperson for NHS Croydon CCG said: "Urgent care services in the NHS have seen significant increases in demand over the last few weeks as we enter the winter period. This is an issue across London, not just in Croydon.
"The Commissioners of the service for the whole of London hold weekly performance meetings with the London Ambulance Service (LAS), the Trust Development Authority and NHS England where performance is reviewed as well as what actions can be taken to get the health system as a whole to support LAS.
"In recent months, LAS has been supported in their drive to recruit more staff and there has been work with providers to reduce the time ambulances spend at hospitals.
"In Croydon, we have been working with our local providers to help patients to use local health services more appropriately."