PATIENTS with life-threatening conditions in Flintshire are taking longer to get to hospital than people in neighbouring counties.

Ambulance response times for the most serious calls in the county fell below the all-Wales benchmark in November.

More than a third of Category A calls were responded to outside the eight-minute target, with “adverse weather” blamed.

But Wrexham and Denbighshire both met the standard set by the Welsh Assembly Government.

Now strong and visible leadership has been called for to improve the service in Flintshire.

Pat Billingham, head of Betsi Cadwaladr Community Health Council, said a pilot scheme to improve ambulance deployment patterns has been put in place.

She said: “Flintshire is a perennial problem. The ambulance service is well aware of it. Some of the ambulances normally deployed within Flintshire get sucked into Wrexham – if they are down in Wrexham they are not in Flintshire.

“The times in Flintshire stick out like a sore thumb and it is concerning for patients. The sooner you get to hospital the better.”

Some 62 per cent of serious calls were answered in the time limit, below the Welsh Assembly Government’s all-Wales target of 65 per cent.

Denbighshire was the top performing county in Wales with 78.8 per cent of calls met and Wrexham answered 70.3 per cent of calls in the time frame.

North Wales AM Mark Isherwood said: “I am disappointed and concerned that the target was not achieved in Flintshire.

“It is true that in some regions standards are rising, largely due to the hard work and commitment of NHS staff.

“But we cannot ignore the fact that response times in some parts of Wales are especially poor.

“I urge the Labour-Plaid Welsh Government to take immediate action to address this.”

The latest Flintshire figures, for a 24-hour period from December 1-2, place the number of calls met within eight minutes at 54 per cent.

But the November figures mean the county did manage to meet the Local Health Board response target of 60 per cent.

A Welsh Ambulance Service Trust spokesman said: “The trust was achieving the Assembly Government standards until the adverse weather conditions in late November.

“We saw a significant rise in weather-related calls. From November 26 until the end of the month, ambulance crews dealt with 784 fall incidents across Wales.

“After this, due to access problems and reduced driving speeds, the eight-minute response time standard was difficult to achieve.

“However, thanks to joint planning with other emergency services and voluntary organisations, we were able to provide continuity of emergency and essential services.

“Particular thanks go to our staff who overcame considerable difficulties to get to work to ensure ambulance services were provided.”

An Assembly Government spokesman said: “The Welsh Ambulance Service has met the response time target nine out of 11 months in 2010.

“This is as a direct result of the hard work and commitment of the trust’s staff who have worked with great dedication.

“However, they have fallen slightly short of the target in November.

“The trust board and executive management team now needs to show very strong and visible leadership within the organisation and demonstrate it is totally committed to sustaining the target across Wales.”

Ambulance stations in Flintshire are based in Mold, Queensferry, Flint and Holywell, although ambulances operate from several deployment sites around the county according to where they are most likely to be needed.