A new report has said that emergency services should respond to immediately life-threatening emergency calls within eight minutes.

The report from the Health Information and Quality Authority has recommended to Health Minister Mary Harney that the new emergency response time targets operate from this month, on a phased basis.

It has also recommended that some ambulance service providers be required to report their response times from the middle of this year.

Jon Billings, Director of Healthcare Quality and Safety at HIQA, said that among the key performance targets the authority has recommended to the minister are that properly trained personnel attend patients suffering cardiac or respiratory arrest within eight minutes, in 75% of cases.

Mr Billings said that speedy response is known to improve patient outcomes, however up to now the HSE has not gathered and monitored this information on a systematic basis.

The HSE has said it will be a huge challenge to meet the new proposed standard.

Pat McCreanor, Performance and Control Manager, HSE National Ambulance Service said that the executive welcomed the HIQA report that contains the new guidance.

He said the emergency service currently collects response data differently to what HIQA will require and so changes will be needed.

Mr McCreanor said he was happy with the current response times but agreed that they did not meet the HIQA standards.

He said investment was being made in new technology and a new medical priority despatch system which will improve the emergency service.

The most recent HSE performance report, for October 2010, set an emergency ambulance calls response target of 63% within 14 minutes, but the actual target achieved in October 2010 was lower than that at 57%.

HIQA said that once the information is available in the HSE, the authority will expect to see improvements each year in performance across the system.

Ambulance services are provided by the National Ambulance Service of the HSE, with the exception of Dublin City where emergency ambulance services are provided by the Dublin Fire Brigade.