PARAMEDICS in Wiltshire will be able to administer injections to heart attack patients without obtaining permission from a hospital doctor.

The change is being implemented in a bid to improve the Great Western Ambulance Service's response to a national target of treating people who have heart attacks.

The target is for 68 per cent of heart attack patients who are eligible to receive a clot busting drug, called thrombolysis, to receive it within 60 minutes of calling for help.

The target is a shared target between the ambulance services and acute hospitals in Wiltshire, Avon and Gloucestershire including Great Western Hospital in Swindon, Royal United Hospital in Bath and Salisbury District Hospital.

The ambulance service is required to treat 40 per cent of eligible patients in the ambulance while on the way to hospital but is currently only treating 30 per cent of eligible patients.

A report to the ambulance service board last Thursday (January 31) said that the main reason for failing to meet the target was due to a shortage of paramedics.

The board was told that between April and November last year the number of operational paramedics across Avon, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire fluctuated between 304 and 340.

The board was also told that 52 new paramedics were being trained in 2007/8 and recruitment of paramedics was ongoing.

A spokeswoman for the Great Western Ambulance Service said the service planned to reach the 40 per cent target by September this year.

She said: "We are training our staff to make the decision to thrombolyse patients so they don't have to obtain approval from a hospital clinician. This will enable us to give the treatment in a more timely manner."

Previously paramedics had to send the ECG results to the hospital while the ambulance was transporting the patient and wait for a doctor to approve thrombolysis.