A RUSH of emergency calls during July sent figures for ambulance call-outs spiralling.

Ambulance chiefs are baffled by the increase, which almost matched calls for peak winter times in December.

The total number of emergency calls in July was 3,207 compared to 3,350 at Christmas.

Turn-around times at Ronkswood A&E also piled extra pressure on resources with ambulance crews sometimes having to wait for up to two hours to unload patients due to bed waits.

Steve McGuinness, director of operations for Hereford and Worcester Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said there had been an 8.8 per cent increase in response to emergency calls and a further 5.9 per cent in urgent cases.

"This has put extra pressure on us because we can't put extra staff on to deal with it and have had to absorb it with current staff," he said.

"There are little or no significant swings in any one particular area of calls, for example in road accidents or psychiatric calls - it seems to be across a whole spread of incidents.

"Nationally a phenomena is occurring but nobody can say why it is happening.

"All chest pains went into 999 calls but you would therefore expect a reduction in urgent calls but that has not happened."

Mr McGuinness added that any change in turn-around times or hospitals' referral times impacted on the service.

Crews have a turn-around time of 20 minutes at A&E but on occasions at Ronkswood had been forced to wait as long as two hours.

"With a strict level of ambulances available, all of that will impinge on our ability to perform," he said.

"There have been significant delays in unloading patients. When you only have 21 front-line vehicles and you take two or three out you are reducing your coverage significantly and bringing in vehicles from other areas."

But he did not blame the hospital and described it as a "health service problem" prompted by demand.

Data analysis could help ambulance trust bosses make best use of their resources and lead to speedier responses.

Hereford and Worcester Ambulance Service NHS Trust has developed a tactical deployment plan and is due to put forward a business case later this year.

Historical data and predictive analyses will be used to put crews in the ideal places to respond.

"Coming out of the station and having to make it secure takes time," said director of operations, Steve McGuinness.

He said a tactical deployment plan would enable them to "hammer" times and improve responses.