COMMUNITY leaders have called for action after an investigation revealed a stark difference in ambulance response times across the county.

Government targets say ambulance trusts must send medical help to the most serious emergencies within eight minutes of a 999 call at least 75 per cent of the time.

But our report shows some people in need of medical help are being left to wait more than eight minutes 70 per cent of the time.

South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) provides help in under eight minutes in 76.7 per cent of cases across Oxfordshire.

But a Freedom of Information request shows varying response times.

* Just 30 per cent of calls were responded to within eight minutes in the OX18 postcode area, including Bampton, Burford, Carterton and Brize Norton * SCAS met its 75 per cent target in just 10 of Oxfordshire’s 26 postcode areas.

* It exceeded targets throughout Oxford, but in West Oxfordshire it answered more than 75 per cent of emergency calls within eight minutes during only one month in the past three years l Much of the time, fire officers or volunteers with medical training, rather than parademics in ambulances, reached the scene first.

West Oxfordshire district councillor Peter Handley said the service was so poor that patients needing emergency care “might as well phone a taxi”.

He said: “When you look at the statistics it is still an appalling situation. Ratepayers in West Oxfordshire are not getting value for money.

“What is needed is more ambulances. As far as I am aware, the majority come from Kidlington or Oxford. It is totally unacceptable.”

Chipping Norton and Witney lost their ambulance stations in 2003, although vehicles are supposed to be at designated stand-by points in the district.

Only Didcot, Oxford, Kidlington and Adderbury now have ambulance stations.

SCAS divisional director John Nichols said overall, response times were the second best of the 11 ambulance trusts in England, and large numbers of volunteers provided immediate care while ambulances were en route.

He said: “We are particular pleased that we have very few patients that have to wait a long time for an ambulance response, and even in those postcode areas where performance appears poor, we are only missing that ‘line in the sand’ response time target by seconds.

“On every occasion when a patient has a delayed response a full internal review is undertaken to determine whether any lesson can be learned to improve the service to patients.”

In December, councillor Hillary Biles, who co-authored a critical review into ambulance services in West Oxfordshire in 2009, waited 50 minutes for an ambulance after her doctor phoned for one to come to her home in Shipton-under-Wychwood.

She said: “Some people have said that this is what happenes if you live where you live, but I do not find that acceptable.

“The Wychwoods are not remote. I feel that if they had not closed the ambulance stations, all the ambulance times would be in the target.”

And Robert Towney, from Chipping Norton, added: “If an ambulance has to come here from Adderbury or Kidlington, there is absolutely no way it can get here within eight minutes.

“There used to be two fully-manned ambulances in Chipping Norton, so to try to convince people they are getting a better service is laughable.”

We calculated response times based on data provided for June 2009, December 2009, June 2010 and October 2010.

What is your experience of the county’s ambulance service? Call the newsdesk on 01865 425444.