AMBULANCES in Essex are failing to get to some of the most critical patients on time, according to figures.

Paramedics are given a set time of getting to their most serious cases within eight minutes.

But the East of England Ambulance service, which covers the county, is failing to reach the 75 per cent benchmark.

Patients having heart attacks, not breathing and with no pulse fall into the most critical category.

In 2013/14 the East of England Ambulance Service reached 73.6 per cent of the eight minute call outs.

Across the country the average response rate was 75.6 per cent.

A spokesman for NHS England said: "It is important to stress that the majority of patients are treated quickly and effectively despite demands on ambulance services over the last year.

"But it is quite clear that ambulance trusts are under pressure and we will need to address this when allocating the extra money recently announced to help the NHS meet the high standards that patients are entitled to expect."

A spokeswoman for the East of England trust said: "The trust appointed new chief executive Anthony Marsh in January, who put in place a performance improvement action plan as the trust has been consistently failing its targets and performance.

"Fundamentally this is due to not having enough staff or ambulances on the road. Therefore the trust is currently recruiting 400 student paramedics this year. So far it has already offered 360 contracts to student paramedics and more than 120 of these have started their training or are on the road.

"In addition, the trust has brought in 147 new ambulances and is upskilling existing staff from emergency care assistant to emergency medical technician and EMT to paramedic."