A REPORT has revealed ambulance staff in Wiltshire changed response times to 999 calls so they met government targets.

The Audit Commission took the rare step of issuing a public interest report into its findings.

Auditors discovered more than 600 emergency response times were "altered" between April 1 2005 and July 17 2006.

The investigation covered the period before and after April 2006, when the former Wiltshire Ambulance NHS Trust merged to become part of Great Western Ambulance NHS Trust.

Targets set by the government state ambulances must respond to 90 per cent of category A within eight minutes. These are classified as life threatening situations.

They must respond to 95 per cent of category B calls, classified as serious, within 14 to 19 minutes.

advertisement Auditor Richard Lott, responding to concerns raised by the former trust's chief executive, found response times to 594 category A calls and 89 category B calls were changed manually.

A statement issued by the commission said: "If the system is properly managed, it can be used to monitor and improve performance as a whole.

"But a system can also be used to manipulate the data, rather than changing the way a service is delivered.

"Data that is easy to manipulate gives people both the motive and the opportunity to do so."

Mr Lott went onto say it was "crucial" the public had confidence in the integrity of the data.

He said the Great Western Ambulance Trust had responded positively to the findings and action had been taken to ensure the practice does not happen again.

Recommendations made to the board included producing a proper system to manage information, approving an action plan for the Wiltshire sector to tackle issues raised in the report and consider if disciplinary action needs to be taken against any staff.