Ambulance trusts in England are using widely different ways of measuring the time they take to respond to emergency 999 calls, it was reported today.

Ambulance trusts in England are using widely different ways of measuring the time they take to respond to emergency 999 calls, it was reported today.

In 2001, the Government set a target for ambulances to reach 75% of life-threatening emergency calls within eight minutes, and the latest figures show 26 of England's 30 trusts claim to hit that figure.

But the BBC Radio 4 Today programme reported on evidence showing that some trusts are achieving the target by delaying starting the clock ticking after receiving a call.

The programme claimed that many trusts do not start the clock until one and a half or two minutes after the call is received, and in at least one case the delay may be as much as three or four minutes.

The chief executive of the trust which performs best on this measure, Staffordshire's Roger Thane, said on Today that the use of delayed start times could mask poor responses in some areas.

The target for responding to so-called Category A calls is calculated according to the maximum time for reaching someone who has had a cardiac arrest.

Trusts get more money from Government if they meet the target.

In Staffordshire, the clock is started as soon as the call is received, or automatically 30 seconds afterwards, the programme said.

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