Great Western Ambulance Service could be fined more than £2 million if it fails to meet target times for sending ambulances to patients.

For the first time GWAS will be docked funding if it does not achieve two targets.

One is to achieve 75 per cent in sending an ambulance response to life threatening calls (Category A) within eight minutes and the other is to achieve a 95 per cent response in sending an ambulance to serious, but not life threatening, calls (Category B) within 19 minutes. If the targets are not met over the year GWAS will be fined two per cent for each target.

GWAS’s contract for accident and emergency work this year is £68 million so a two per cent fine would result in a loss of £1.36 million.

GWAS had failed to consistently meet the Category A call target since it was formed in 2006 following the merger of Wiltshire, Avon and Gloucestershire ambulance services.

It did achieve the target for 2009/10 although in Wiltshire (excluding Swindon) it only achieved a response rate of 68.9 per cent.

Due to ambulance crews in places like Swindon, Bristol and Cheltenham exceeding the 75 per cent target the overall result is that GWAS met the target.

David Whiting, the chief executive of GWAS for 12 months, said: “Changing behaviour in all health trusts is vital for improving patient care and fines are one of the ways of ensuring that happens. The penalties are certainly not designed to be punitive and are not a way of raising income.”

He said he was confident that GWAS would meet both targets. “Further improving our speed of response is something we are determined to do,” he said.