AMBULANCE crews covering south Wiltshire are spread "too thinly" and have no chance of meeting the targets set them, resulting in a service which is "rotten," claims Salisbury MP Robert Key this week.

Mr Key's outspoken condemnation of the Great Western Ambulance Service comes after he has been inundated with complaints from the families of patients who have had to wait up to ten hours for an ambulance to arrive.

Mr Key said, in one case he is investigating, an elderly woman in Tilshead waited ten hours for an ambulance and, in another, a patient waited seven hours for an ambulance to eventually arrive from Bristol.

He told the Journal: "I have so many cases about this issue. Hardly a week goes by without a another family writing to me to complain.

"Each time I speak to the chief executive of the ambulance service, he says terribly sorry, it was a mistake and we are working to put things right' but that is not good enough."

Mr Key added he is convinced there are "simply not enough ambulance crews covering south Wiltshire."

He said: "Even on a good day, they cannot meet their targets in terms of the minutes they have to reach their patient.

"They have to travel too far even with ambulances on stand-by in various parts of south Wiltshire.

"I am extremely dissatisfied with the service and am currently pursuing individual complaints. We have to work for a permanent improvement to the service being given to us in south Wiltshire."

However, Mr Key was quick to praise the ambulance crews themselves, and said he felt "very sorry for them."

"They are among the best trained paramedics in the country and they are fed-up because they cannot do the job they are trained for and love.

"They are spread too thinly to be able to do their job properly," he added. Last week, Mr Key was contacted by the family of a 74-year-old Redlynch widow, who collapsed and died at her home while waiting for an ambulance which eventually arrived after 40 minutes.

"The blame for many of the delays has been put on a new computer system installed at the Devizes control room.

Ambulance crews and control room staff claim the new system causes delays in dispatching ambulances because 999 calls are handled first in Bristol and then relayed to Devizes.

They say insufficient information is relayed through leading to delays in getting ambulances onto the road.

Ambulance bosses admit failures exist, and meetings have been held to identify and agree solutions.

Ambulance staff say they had moved quickly to work with the trust to tackle the issues so they can deliver a service the public demand and deserve.