The ambulance service in west Oxfordshire is being “stretched too thinly”, a new report has concluded.

West Oxfordshire District Council set up a working party in September to look at 999 ambulance call-outs after concerns were raised over response times.

And working party chairman Hilary Biles said the report’s damning verdict – which included evidence of first aiders being sent to jobs they were not trained to deal with – proved more money needed to be spent.

She said: “Everyone should have equal access to ambulance services and that simply isn’t happening in west Oxfordshire.

“We need more money spent on more ambulances and more paramedics, because what we have is being stretched too thin.”

In the report, the working party said £4.2m needed to be spent to improve the service in the area.

It also found response times for category A emergency call-outs – where ambulances should be at the scene in eight minutes – were falling well short of Government targets. Only 54 per cent of calls were reached within the eight minutes in figures for September, compared to the 75 per cent national target.

Mrs Biles said the figure would be worse if it did not include the response times of community and fire responders – specially trained members of the public and fire service who provide a rapid response ahead of the ambulance.

Mrs Biles said: “Originally responders were set up to go out to life-threatening calls such as heart attacks and anyone who might need a defibrillator.

“I think the fact the South Central Ambulance Service is only meeting 54 per cent of calls, and that includes the responder figures, speaks volumes.

“I don’t want to take anything away from the paramedics and the volunteer responders who do this. But the fact is, we shouldn’t be relying on volunteers.”

Community and fire responders are only able to administer oxygen and use a defibrillator in cases where people have had heart attacks.

The report highlighted six occasions community responders had been called out to deal with suicides or attempted suicides in the Chipping Norton area since 2004.

Mrs Biles said: “Of the 150 times community responders were called in Chipping Norton, there were only about seven or eight that were actually heart attacks. That in itself shows you they are being used for other means.”

The South Central Ambulance Service said it could not comment on cases where fire responders had been called out to suicides.

But it accepted the district council’s estimate that £4.2m needed spending to improve the service.

Spokesman Alison Brumfitt said it would be working with the district council and the commissioner for South Central Ambulances to see how to move forward.

She said: “We want to assure people that we are reaching patients faster than ever, whether that be with responders or ambulances.”