THERE is outrage in Ledbury at the news the ambulance service has permanently removed its fast response car from the town.

But the West Midlands Ambulance service claims Ledbury has better cover now, because an extra conventional ambulance has been provided for its Hereford-based fleet, and response times are actually good here for a rural area.

The town lost its own ambulance station in Bye Street in 2012, but until recently a fast response car was based at Ledbury police station, off the Worcester Road – but this is no longer the case.

Usually, there are 12 to14 ambulances on shift each da in Herefordshire. For category one calls, such as a cardiac arrest, an ambulance is supposed to get there in seven minutes for at least 50 per cent of the calls.

However, last week in Herefordshire, the 'mean' time to arrive for category one call outs was 8 minutes and 57 seconds, almost two minutes up on the national target.

The removal of the fast response car was raised as a matter of concern by a member of the public at last week's full Ledbury Town Council meeting in the Community Hall.

Posting on the Facebook site, The Voice of Ledbury, other residents have wasted no time in expressing their concerns.

Former town mayor Debbie Baker said: "Two minutes makes a difference when it's life and death. Nearly nine minutes to attend a call seems an extremely long time for those who are in need of it.

"It does matter where shifts start and finish – it matters to those who are waiting for them."

Pauline Halford added: "It's disgusting – how can an ambulance get from Hereford to Ledbury in seven to eight minutes?

"My husband had a massive heart attack and if it was not for the ambulance being in Ledbury, he would most probably not be here today; so we ask what's being done about it, before someone does lose a life, be it young, old, brother, sister, mum, dad or grandchild?"

Melanie Thompson said: "What an absolutely ridiculous decision this is. A friend of mine recently spent a long time lying on a pavement in Ledbury, injured and waiting for an ambulance, and in the end she got moved to the Community Hospital by the police, as they could see how difficult the situation was and weren’t happy to drive off leaving her suffering."

Murray MacGregor, communications director for West Midlands Ambulance Service, said it did not matter where ambulance crews begin and end their shifts, because the control room is "constantly moving vehicles around, all over the place".

He said that while category one responses were missing the national target, this was down to the rural nature of the county.

On one day last week, ambulance crews attended 97 calls outs in Herefordshire, but only four of those were category one.

Mr MacGregor said of the West Midlands Ambulance Service: "Our response times are the best in the country."

And in Herefordshire, ambulance response times last week for category two calls outs, classed as "a serious condition, such as stroke or chest pain, which may require rapid assessment and/or urgent transport", were far better than the national target of 18 minutes for 50 per cent of the calls.

In fact, on one day last week, Herefordshire's ambulances were getting there in a 'mean' time of 14 minutes and 51 seconds.

Mr MacGregor strongly defended the decision to remove the fast response car from Ledbury and base an extra conventional ambulance at Hereford.

He said: "The reason we do these things is to improve what we do. We get there as fast as we possibly can. We will always send the closest vehicle to a job."