Mersey Regional Ambulance Serv ice trust is boasting success as the first urban ambulance trust to beat new government performance targets on emergency response times.

Last month the trust exceeded by almost 2 per cent the target of responding to 75 per cent of category A calls within eight minutes eight months ahead of schedule.

Chief executive David Todhunter said success had hinged on 'a series of innovative measures', including the creation of seven rapid-response units.

These had improved standards for patients suffering from coronary heart disease, and meant that 81 per cent of cardiac-related emergencies received a response within eight minutes.

Other innovations included the installation of a third radio frequency so that calls come through to control rooms more quickly, and the introduction of a dedicated incident desk to monitor 'red' calls and dispatch rapid response teams.

Mr Todhunter said: 'A lot of it has been about motivating staff. We are really pleased; the job is to ensure that we continue to maintain and improve our standards.'