EMERGENCY patients in Gloucestershire have to wait longer for an ambulance than people in any other area of the country, a government report has highlighted.

New figures published by the NHS Information Centre show that Great Western Ambulance Service, which covers Gloucestershire, Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, has the worst response times in the country.

"I think it is disgusting. The ambulance service has got to pull its socks up and get its act together," said Brian Marsh, Dursley town councillor.

"It is a worry to people in Dursley and other areas that they are not quick enough, people are worried about being ill - it is not good enough."

The trust has been criticised in the past for not getting to patients quickly enough.

In January this year GWAS left a 10-year-old boy waiting nearly two hours after he had slipped and broke his arm in two places at his school in Nympsfield.

And last September Christina Westmorland, from Cam, was left for half an hour choking and gasping for breath until an ambulance arrived to take her to hospital.

New figures have revealed that in 2007/08 GWAS responded to emergency incidents within eight minutes only 72 per cent of the time, when its target is 75 per cent and the national average is 77 per cent.

Margaret Nolder, county councillor for Cam and Dursley and former member of the joint health overview scrutiny committee that monitored the progress of GWAS, said: "I think they are making slow progress. They are well aware that people are not happy with the service.

"But I think it is early days yet and we are hoping the service will improve over time."

However, GWAS has claimed it has made real progress over the last year with the response times.

Steve West, director of operations, said: "This is a significant improvement on previous performance and a testament to the hard work and dedication of our staff.

"Clearly we still have work to do to but these figures show how far GWAS has come over the last 12 months.

"The investment we have made in upgrading our technology is really making a difference.

"We are also recruiting more staff and investing in more vehicles with 59 emergency care practitioners, eight new air ambulance critical care practitioners, 30 new ambulances and we now have a total of 70 rapid response vehicles so we can get to patients even faster."