Great Western Ambulance Service chief executive David Whiting has pledged to improve response times in rural areas of Wiltshire by using volunteers.

The Kennet area, which includes Devizes, Marlborough and Pewsey, has one of the worst response times for life threatening (Category A) calls out in Wiltshire, Avon and Gloucestershire.

In Kennet, ambulance crews are reaching Category A calls within eight minutes 60 per cent of the time against a national target of 75 per cent.

Mr Whiting told a meeting of councillors from all three counties on Friday: “Kennet remains a challenging area. It can’t be solved with directly commissioned resources (ambulance staff) because the volume per two to three day period is so low.

“When you look at Kennet, to move it to the same place as like for like areas, eg from 55 per cent to 65 per cent, means hitting one call per 48 hours. That is something we can do with community first responders, either lay people or professional fire service co-responders.

“Kennet does concern me. We have not had as much engagement in community first responder development in Kennet and it’s something we do need to pick up. We will not be satisfied until we get a good and acceptable level of response.”

The response to Category A calls in Kennet has improved slightly from 55 per cent last year (2009/10), which was the second worst response in the GWAS area.

Due to the Category A target of 75 per cent being exceeded in urban areas such as Swindon and Bristol GWAS achieved the 75 per cent target in Wiltshire and trust wide, the first time since it was formed in 2006.

Consequently GWAS has moved up the national ambulance league table from bottom to sixth out of 11.

To improve further GWAS is changing staff rosters to try to stop ambulance crews from answering calls in neighbouring counties, eg Wiltshire into Avon. In addition an extra 60 paramedics are to be recruited across GWAS this year.

Mr Whiting, who has been in charge of GWAS for a year, said: “We recognise there is too much flow across the county boundaries and we need to get the balance right, often making sure the urban areas are resourced sufficiently to make sure there is no rural pull.”

n Category A response times in Wiltshire for 2009/10 were 69.5 per cent in North Wiltshire, 74 per cent in West Wiltshire and 89.6 per cent in Swindon.