EMERGENCY ambulance response times performance across Gwent for July was worse than during the same month last year, despite more recent monthly improvements.

Overall, in the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board area during July, just 52.5 per cent of category A emergency calls had an ambulance or Rapid Response Vehicle on the scene inside the standard minutes.

That is 7.2 percentage points lower than in July 2013, and although there were 111 more occasions this July than last when a category A call received a response at the scene - 2,699 in total - 126 fewer calls (1,410) were reaching inside eight minutes.

In Gwent, emergency response times improved in all five council areas compared to June.

But against the July 2013 figures, performance was down 9.9 percentage points in Monmouthshire (the biggest year on year fall in Wales), 7.4 percentage points in Newport, 6.8 percentage points in Caerphilly, 6.6 percentage points in Torfaen, and 4.4 percentage points in Blaenau Gwent.

Only in Newport (62.1 per cent) was the 60 per cent council area target for responses inside eight minutes met in July.

Wales-wide, the 65 per cent target for eight-minutes responses was missed again, at 58.7 per cent, but there was improvement on this year’s May and June performance.

The latest figures were issued the day following an announcement of almost £4 million of Welsh Government investment in new ambulances and other response vehicles, and just as the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust rolls out a scheme whereby patients assessed as being lower priority will be encouraged to find alternative transport to hospital.

William Graham, Conservative AM for South Wales East, again called for action to address the matter of poor response times.

Alluding to the new investment, he said: “I appreciate the requirement to upgrade our ambulances, but this is of little consequence if our ambulances are stranded for hours outside our A&E departments.”

Welsh Liberal Democrats leader Kirsty Williams said upgrading the ambulance fleet is a start but is concerned it might just be papering over the cracks of a service that is failing the people of Wales.