The Scottish Ambulance Service is failing to meet its targets for responding to life-threatening emergencies in the NHS Grampian and Tayside areas, claim the Scottish Conservatives.
Data released following a Freedom of Information request from the Scottish Conservatives shows a declining performance over the past three years.
The Conservatives say statistics show that a target to respond within eight minutes to 75 per cent of Category A incidents – classed as immediately life-threatening - has been missed repeatedly.
In Tayside, the figure was 71.08 per cent, a drop from 74.45 per cent in 2014/15 and 75.32 per cent in 2013/14 and for Grampian, the 2015/16 figure was 68 per cent, down from 72 per cent in 2014/15 and 73 per cent in 2013/14.
The Scottish Ambulance Service says it is investing in additional frontline staff with a five-year recruitment programme creating 1,000 new paramedics in Scotland.
The Conservatives say a breakdown by ambulance station has laid bare some of the local difficulties in reaching scenes within the allotted time.
In Angus, in Brechin, the figure for 2015/16 was just 50.73 per cent, down from 53.2 per cent in 2014/15 and 56.7 per cent in 2013/14.
Forfar is reported as being at 61.7 per cent in 2015/16, down from 66.1 per cent in 2014/15 and 69.2 per cent in 2013/14, while in Monifieth, the figures were 62.2 per cent for 2015/16, a drop from 66 per cent in 2014/15 and 67.59 per cent in 2013/14.
Arbroath is reported at being at 71.74 per cent in 2015/16, down from 75.57 per cent in 2014/15 and compared to 74.36 per cent in 2013/2014.
In Kirriemuir, the figure for 2015/16 was 66.66 per cent, down from 78.38 per cent in 2014/15 and compared to 75 per cent in 2013/14.
The figures in Montrose have roughly stayed the same over the last three years - the figure was 71.95 per cent in 2013/15, 70.93 per cent in 2014/15 and 71.36 per cent in 2015/16.
For Category B incidents – serious but not life-threatening injuries – the target to respond to 95 per cent of calls within 19 minutes was missed this year in Grampian (81.4 per cent) and in 2014/15 (85.6 per cent) and 2013/14 (89.4 per cent).
For Tayside, the equivalent figures were 83.01 per cent in 2015/16, 87.74 per cent in 2014/15 and 89.73 per cent in 2013/14.
Alexander Burnett, Scottish Conservative MSP for Aberdeenshire West, said: “These response time figures are clearly very worrying, with an unacceptably poor performance in rural areas covered by stations in Aberdeenshire and Angus.
“We have heard anecdotal evidence that ambulances are taking as long as half an hour or more to reach accident scenes in the North East.
“There are always a number of factors that can explain drops in performance, but it seems that the service in this area is seriously over-stretched and under-resourced.
“We welcome the announcement from the Scottish Ambulance Service that there will be more staff brought in, but we also need to be sure that we have enough stations in the right places.
“In an area the size of Grampian, journey times can be challenging, but the public need to be reassured that if they call 999, help will be on its way as quickly as possible.”
A spokesperson for the Scottish Ambulance Service Ambulance said: “Teams in Tayside and Grampian are busier than ever as emergency demand continues to increase.
“The service is addressing this by investing in an additional frontline staff and a five-year recruitment programme will create 1,000 new paramedics in Scotland, many of whom will be deployed in the region, to enhance the clinical skills mix of our staff and introduce new ways of working to best meet the needs of patients.
“The average response time to a potentially life threatening call in Tayside is around seven minutes and around seven-and-a-half minutes in Grampian, however this can be affected by several factors, such as sudden surges in 999 demand and requests for hospital transfers, as well as changing weather conditions and turnaround times at hospitals.
“In a potentially life threatening emergency, the nearest available ambulance is always dispatched straight away.
“While response time is an important aspect of pre-hospital care, the clinical expertise of ambulance teams is key to maintaining good patient outcomes.
“The ongoing development of clinical skills is reflected in the consistently high survival rates that are now being achieved in Scotland as more lives are saved by ambulance teams every year.”