South Central Ambulance Service rated 'good' despite missing targets
South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) has been rated "good" by the government health watchdog, despite missing response targets for critically-ill patients.
A Care Quality Commission (CQC) report praised the trust for outperforming targets for non-urgent calls.
SCAS is the first ambulance trust in England to receive a "good" rating.
The CQC said "improvements are needed" over issues including higher-than-average call waiting times.
Chief executive of the service Will Hancock said: "This is fabulous news for our organisation as we are the first and only ambulance trust to get a good rating across ambulance trusts in England."
"Good" is the CQC's second highest of four rankings - showing a service is performing well and meeting its expectations.
'Prolonged delays at hospitals'
The CQC report was based on inspections carried out in May. The trust provides ambulance services to Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Hampshire.
All ambulances in the UK are supposed to respond to at least 75% of Red 1 calls - when someone becomes unresponsive and has a life-threatening condition like a cardiac arrest - within eight minutes.
The same target is set for Red 2 calls - when a person has a potentially life-threatening condition such as a stroke.
SCAS responded to 73.67% of Red 1 calls within eight minutes and 71.53% of Red 2 calls in May 2016.
Deputy chief inspector Professor Edward Baker said: "Through no fault of the ambulance services, its vehicles are often facing prolonged delays at some acute hospitals' emergency departments.
"For people needing an urgent response, the consequences can be serious."
In June it was reported that ambulances were forced to queue at some hospitals in the region due to lack of space at hospital accident and emergency (A&E) departments.
The CQC reported that at times, 16 ambulances were stacked up at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, a third of the overall ambulances in the Hampshire region.