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If I might make a little progress, many of the questions will be answered.
I would like to see the website that says that the Government have set a target of 90 per cent. by 2003. I am not aware of such a target. Officially, we have said that we want every service to reach the 75 per cent. target first, and then we will move on from there. That is important.
We want to ensure that ambulance services everywhere get to more patients in time to make a difference. That is not about creating league tables but about saving more lives. Clinical evidence shows that faster resuscitation, quicker heart shocks using a defibrillator, and the earlier delivery of clot-busting thrombolytic drugs can all make an important contribution to the effort to reach the demanding targets that we have set for saving more lives.
Since 1997, ambulance services have improved their response times by using a range of measures, including more staff and vehicles, faster activation, better matching of resources to demand, dynamic as opposed to station-based cover, effective relief levels and rotas, and flexible 999 responses. I emphasise the issue of where ambulances should be located. The ultimate aim is to get effective help to immediately life-threatening category A calls within eight minutes.
Developing new ways of fighting the war against heart attacks is very important, especially in the more rural areas where ambulance responses tend to take longer. First responder and community volunteer responder schemes buy time during the vital first minutes and until a fully equipped and crewed emergency ambulance arrives. In some areas, first responders work with the fire service. That is right and proper; the aim is to get people there quickly.
Across the country, NHS ambulance trusts answer and respond to more calls year on year. In the past five years alone, emergency 999 calls have risen by nearly 1 million--an increase of 30 per cent.--and the number of patient journeys has also increased.