THE Health Watchdog has been ordered to "accelerate" its investigation into ambulance emergency response times amid serious concern for patient safety.
Health Minister James Reilly has now demanded an urgent review of the country's ambulance services after it emerged that crucial response time targets are still being missed.
Figures supplied to the Oireachtas Health Committee reveal that services across every ambulance region missed response time targets last year in cases of life-threatening emergencies.
Ambulance services are set two different HSE targets which outline how long it should take for an ambulance to respond to an emergency. A higher rate of compliance is set by the Health Watchdog, HIQA.
The HSE states that 70pc of 'Echo' calls – which relate to the most serious of emergencies – should be responded to within 18 minutes 59 seconds.
A lower compliance rate of 68pc is set in the case of 'Delta' calls, which relate to life-threatening emergencies other than cardiac or respiratory arrests.
Figures seen by the Herald reveal:
* The West and the Dublin ambulance regions failed to meet the 'Echo' target, recording 60.8pc and 61.4pc respectively
* Each region missed the 'Delta' target last year, although most recorded improvements
* The Ambulance Service in the South recorded the highest 'Echo' grade (89.5pc) but the lowest 'Delta' grade (57.4pc)
* The North Leinster and Dublin services were the only two to record improvements in both grades in 2013.