‘SERIOUS concerns’ have again been raised about the poor ambulance response times in rural parts of East Lancashire.

New figures for the three-month period to May showed more than 160 patients with life-threatening problems, labelled ‘red’ incidents, waited more than 20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.

Red calls should receive an emergency response within eight minutes.

Four of these incidents were classed as ‘Red 1’, which covers cardiac arrest patients who have stopped breathing, while the rest were ‘Red 2s’ which include other serious conditions such as a stroke.

North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) aims to respond to 75 per cent of red calls within eight minutes but the performance across the East Lancashire NHS area dipped to just 70 per cent in May.

The figures were obtained by Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson, who has repeatedly highlighted the problem in parts of his constituency.

In Barnoldswick, just 29 out of 67 Red calls received a response in under eight minutes in May.

In January, the Lancashire Telegraph revealed that 45 out of 84 wards in East Lancashire missed the eight-minute target between April and September last year. The worst areas included Langho, Mellor, Gisburn, Rimington, Higham, Pendleside and Vivary Bridge, both Colne.

Mr Stephenson said: “We all understand that the service has been put under pressure and it is encouraging that on most targets they are holding up well.

“However, some targets are being missed and in the harder to reach parts of Pendle, this is a serious and ongoing concern.”

He said he has been promised improvements by health ministers, with £28 million set to be made available to struggling ambulance trusts, while NWAS said new measures have recently been introduced to divert patients with minor problems to more appropriate services, which should free up more paramedics to deal with the red calls.

NWAS chairman Mary Whyham said in a letter to the Conservative MP: “I must add that the last quarter has been particularly challenging throughout the North West due to an unexpected rise in the level of activity.”

NWAS is not commissioned to meet the 75 per cent target in local areas but on a regional level, she added. In March, April and May, NWAS attended a total of 5,527 red calls in East Lancashire.

The response time was greater than 20 minutes in about three percent of these cases. The figures did not reveal whether any patients had died because of the long response time.