Six of the 31 ambulance trusts in England did not record ambulance response times properly in 2005-06, according to a Department of Health (DoH) audit.
The error leaves a question mark over figures claiming to show the number of calls reported as meeting the eight minute response target.
The six are the former West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Cumbria, West Midlands and West Country ambulance trusts and the current Staffordshire Ambulance Trust.
The DoH said all the trusts were now reporting response times correctly and pledged to undertake follow-up audits. It has also asked the trusts to investigate how the mis-reporting happened and take disciplinary action if necessary.
Which? is appalled
Mis-reporting included starting the clock later than the point defined by the DoH, not synchronising clocks so that times were not recorded correctly, and incorrect data management.
Data collected from the 31 ambulance trusts showed that the number of life-threatening, category-A calls answered within the benchmark eight minutes was around 74 per cent over the past year – but mis-reporting by the six trusts has prevented an accurate figure.
Which? health policy advisor Frances Blunden said:’Which? is appalled that ambulance trusts are still mis-reporting the figures. For years, we have highlighted these problems and we were assured that this was a thing of the past.
‘The Department of Health and the Healthcare Commission need to adopt a more robust approach to ensuring ambulance trusts dispatch the most appropriate response to any emergency call as quickly as possible – this requires a more consistent and systematic approach to classifying calls and to starting the time of the call from the beginning of it.’