AMBULANCE response times improved slightly in Gwent during the month of March, but fewer than half of life-threatening emergency callouts failed to reach patients within eight minutes.

New figures from the Welsh Government showed 49.9 per cent of category A immediately life-threatening calls reached patients within the target time of eight minutes within the Aneurin Bevan Health Board area.

That is better than February 2014 when figures showed a 47.9 per cent target rate of responses reached the scene within eight minutes.

But William Graham, AM for South Wales East, said: “I have great concerns that for a huge majority of people in South Wales East, less than half of the emergency calls fail to meet the Welsh Government target.

“For several years local authority areas in our region are consistently at the lower end of response times and is an issue that requires urgent attention.”

In Newport 62.9 per cent of category A call outs reached the scene within eight minutes – an improvement on 56.7 per cent in February.

In Monmouthshire 49.7 per cent of such calls got to patients within that time, up from 48 per cent in February.

The situation wasn’t better in the Valleys.

Blaenau Gwent category A call-outs reached the scene in eight minutes in 41.6 per cent of cases, down from 43 per cent.

Some 44.3 per cent of category A cases were reached within eight minutes in Caerphilly, slightly worse on February’s result of 44.4 per cent.

Meanwhile category A cases in Torfaen were met within the target time 46 per cent of the time, down from 43.5 per cent.

Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said: “It is a national disgrace that in Rhondda Cynon Taf, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Monmouthshire and Cardiff, less than half of life-threatening calls were responded to within the eight minutes.”

Mike Collins, Director of Service Delivery at the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “The service took 35,788 calls in March, up by 3,000 calls when compared to February.

“Resolving handover delays at hospitals remains a number one priority, and we will continue to work with our health board colleagues to ensure patients are handed over as safely and as quickly as possible so our staff are available in the community for the next 999 call."