Under-pressure paramedics failed to respond to more than a quarter of cardiac arrest patients within the eight minute target, new figures have revealed.
Ambulances must attend at least 75 per cent of Category A calls within that time, including a cardiac arrest where the heart suddenly stops pumping blood. The chance of surviving a cardiac arrest drops by 10 to 20 per cent for every minute that passes without CPR or defibrillation.
Figures obtained through freedom of information requests by the Scottish Conservative show that paramedics responded to 71.9 per cent of these calls across Scotland last year within eight minutes, compared to 75.3 per cent in 2014.
Grampian and the Highlands had the worst record, with just 68 per cent of calls reached on time, compared to 76 per cent in the West Central region.
Tory health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “This is a trend that has to be reversed, and if it remains on a downwards trajectory, lives will be put at risk.
“Ambulance workers do a fantastic job under a great deal of pressure, and these figures show they need more support from the government.”
One paramedic working in the North-east warned there were not enough resources to meet the eight-minute target, putting pressure on frontline staff. The paramedic, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “We don’t have enough vehicles to cover the jobs we are being asked to do.
“The eight-minute rule is not always easy in rural areas, with bad weather or if crews are called out on a job and the response has to come from another ambulance station.
“Staff are under so much pressure about these times, when it should be about getting to the scene as quickly and safely as possible. It’s dangerous if they are trying to get there in unrealistic times.”
Ambulance crews responded to 475 more cardiac cases in Scotland last year, reaching 199 more cardiac patients than the previous year within eight minutes, an ambulance spokesman said.
Health secretary Shona Robison said: “Despite attending an increasing number of incidents, the Ambulance Service is saving the lives of more cardiac arrest patients than ever before.”