TIM Lynch, the chief executive of the Great Western Ambulance Service, has apologised for the death of a patient who waited 40 minutes for an ambulance.

Mr Lynch spoke of his regret at a meeting of Wiltshire County Council's health overview and scrutiny committee last Thursday in Trowbridge.

Angela Tabberer, 74, of Redlynch near Salisbury died when an ambulance failed to reach her within eight minutes. An investigation into the incident is under way but it is understood that an ambulance crew were available in Salisbury to respond but the crew did not get called until 25 minutes after the 999 call.

Mrs Tabberer's death on October 18 came two days after a new computer despatch system was introduced into the ambulance control room at Police headquarters in Devizes. The change also resulted in the answering of 999 calls being switched to ambulance control in Bristol.

Ambulance staff told the Gazette that the change has resulted in delays in despatching ambulances and the information received by crews on addresses of patients was not as detailed as the previous computer system.

Mr Lynch said: "We went on to a different CAD (Computer Aided Despatch) system in the middle of October in Wiltshire. Something clearly within that process did not go correctly and did clearly generate a late response in Wiltshire. I would like to sincerely apologise for that."

Mr Lynch said the investigation into the incident should be completed by the end of this month.

He said the investigation would pinpoint whether there had been a technical failure with the computer system, whether it was human error due to lack of familiarity with the new system by staff or if it was purely human error.

The Great Western Ambulance Service has been criticised by the Audit Commission.

In an annual audit letter published last month the commission stated that the trust did not have proper arrangements in place to secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the use of resources.

The trust has a deficit of £1.43 million and intends to repay £700,000 this year and the remainder the following year.

Among its criticisms the commission said the trust did not have sufficient arrangements for setting, reviewing and implementing its strategic and operational objectives; channels of communication with patients and their representatives; arrangements to manage and improve value for money; a medium term financial strategy; arrangements to ensure that its spending matches available resources and for managing performance against budgets.

A spokesman for the ambulance trust said an action plan had been devised to address the concerns in the Audit Commission's letter.