A patient in Sussex with a life-threatening condition waited more than an hour for an ambulance.

Information from a Freedom of Information request to the South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb) found that a 999 caller in Southwick waited over an hour and 20 minutes for an ambulance in April this year.

Their call was designated as Category 1, the most serious kind which deals with time-critical injuries and illnesses, with a target response time of seven minutes.

However, Secamb said it was possible the call was initially classed at a lower category and later upgraded.

In the same month as the 80-minute wait, data revealed that patients in the area had an average wait for a Category 1 call of almost 35 minutes - five times longer than the target response time.

Secamb has said that only a few Category 1 calls were made in the area that month and that the 80-minute wait was a "outlier, with the average affected by this one call".

The data, obtained by Tom Rutland - who is running to be Labour's candidate in East Worthing and Shoreham for the general election, covered calls made in the Lancing, Southwick, Durrington, Findon, and Shoreham area.

The FoI request also found that a Southwick patient waited more than 15 hours for an ambulance, despite their 999 call being triaged as “urgent”.

The 999 caller in a non-emergency condition waited almost 15 and a half hours for an ambulance in July this year, even though the call being triaged as an “urgent” Category 3 call, which can include elderly people who have had a fall.

Data also revealed that the average Lancing 999 caller faced waits of more than 23 minutes for “emergency” Category 2 calls, which include strokes. Secamb's target response time is 18 minutes, but one patient faced a wait of more than three and a half hours for an ambulance.

The Argus: Tom RutlandTom Rutland (Image: Tom Rutland)

Mr Rutland said “urgent action” is needed to tackle waiting times to avoid a “very bleak winter”.

He said: “After a decade of Conservative neglect, our emergency services are at a breaking point.

“Local residents are suffering appalling waits in their moment of need and our doctors, nurses and paramedics are facing terrible pressures.

“We cannot go on like this. Urgent action is needed to bring these waits down - otherwise we are facing a very bleak winter.”

Secamb said that data in the Freedom of Information request covered a narrow geographical area and that for some areas and categories of calls, data for average wait times would be based on a “very small number of calls”.

The ambulance service also said that, while there is more to do to improve response times, its Category 2 response time is the best in the country - with an average of just over 28 minutes across their region last month.

A temporary target to improve Category 2 response times is in place to an average of 30 minutes as part of plans to improve urgent and emergency care services.

A spokesman for Secamb said: “We are very proud of our staff and the commitment and compassion they show to patients.

“We recognise that, along with ambulance services nationally, there remains much to do to improve our response times and we work hard to minimise variation across our region.

“We are currently performing ahead of the national average for response times to our most serious calls including Category 2 calls, which include calls for chest pain and strokes, and where there is more than 60 per cent of our 999 calls fall.

“The public can help us manage demand by ensuring they only call 999 in the event of a serious or life-threatening emergency and by making use of alternatives, including speaking to their own GP or a pharmacist, calling NHS 111 or by visiting NHS 111 online at 111.nhs.uk for help and advice.”

The spokesman also added that not all calls will originate at their eventual highest category and could have been upgraded from a lower category.