AMBULANCE response times are now worse in Dublin city than some rural areas, new figures show.
The ambulances should be at the scene in just under 19 minutes in 85pc of cases, according to target times set by the patient safety body, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).
In counties Roscommon, Mayo and Galway just one in every two ambulances arrive within 19 minutes.
But in Dublin city just two out of every three ambulances arrive within 19 minutes, according to figures obtained by Independent TD Denis Naughton.
"The fact that Dublin city has a poorer record than some more rural areas, such as the mid-west of the country, clearly highlights the fact that the ambulance system is just not working," said the Roscommon TD.
In June, four out of every 10 ambulances in Dublin city did not arrive within the targeted time, while the figure was as high as 74pc in the Midlands.
Nationally, the figures show that ambulances are failing to arrive on the scene within the targeted time for nearly one out of every four life-threatening 999 calls.
Many ambulances that are failing to reach patients in life-threatening situations on time can still be tied up in routine transport duties.
The HSE's own targets are lower, aiming to be at the scene on time for 70pc of cardiac or respiratory emergencies. Its target is 68pc for other life-threatening conditions.
Up to 5,000 people die from heart attacks annually and the survival rate for someone outside of hospital is just one in 15.
In a letter, Martin Dunne, the HSE's Director of the National Ambulance Service, said one of the key issues facing the service had been the use of emergency vehicles for routine work such as transferring a patient from one hospital to another.
He said that the HSE was trying to free up these ambulances and put others on the road doing routine transport work.