Ambulances are failing to get to one in three emergency calls on time in South Yorkshire - sparking fears patients’ lives are being put at risk.
New figures show Yorkshire Ambulance Service has missed its target of answering 75 per cent of life-threatening 999 calls within eight minutes.
Only 69 per cent of calls were responded to within the target time in May - with the problem particularly acute in Barnsley, where the figure was as low as 64 per cent.
The trust says it has seen a big increase in demand to respond to seriously ill and badly injured patients so far this year, and that it is recruiting more staff over the next three months.
But Kelvin Hurd, a paramedic and official for trade union Unite, said: “If you ring an ambulance and your life is in danger there’s a good chance one in three won’t get it in time.
“To me, I would say if your life is in danger eight minutes is reasonable.”
He continued: “We still do a fantastic job when we get there, but unfortunately we’re not getting there and these figures continue to fall.”
Ray Gray, a regional officer at the Unison union, added: “The population is growing and the ambulance service is not growing with it. It becomes harder and harder to meet the calls.”
Ian Brandwood, executive director of HR at the trust, said: “We have had a challenging start to the year and this has been compounded by a significant increase of up to 19 per cent in demand to respond to the most seriously ill and injured patients – an increase which is also being seen across the country.
“Reaching patients as quickly as possible and providing high quality clinical care remains our priority and we would like to reassure the public that we are working hard to address the challenges we are currently facing and make improvements to our response times.
“This includes discussions with our staff and Unison representatives.”
Mr Brandwood said 90 paramedics and emergency care assistants were being hired over the coming months.
“We continue to urge the public to use our 999 service responsibly and ask that they consider alternative healthcare services, such as their GP, a pharmacist or the NHS 111 urgent care service for less urgent illnesses and injuries,” he said.
Unite is currently embroiled in a long-running dispute with the trust over changes to conditions including shift patterns, meal breaks and the level of training given to emergency care assistants, who accompany paramedics on ambulances.
Meanwhile members of the Unison union at the trust are also being balloted for industrial action.
Leaders accuse trust bosses of failing to stick to a five-year ‘workforce plan’.