For the first time, the SA Ambulance Service has missed its target for reaching critically ill patients.

The South Australian Ambulance Service (SAAS) requires ambulances to get to critically ill patients within eight minutes, 60 per cent of the time.

But in its latest annual report, SAAS says it missed that target by 1 per cent. It is the first time it has fallen short.

The target was exceeded by more than 10 per cent in the previous financial year.

SAAS also missed its target for priority 2 patients (potentially life-threatening cases) by nearly 40 per cent last financial year.

The report says that while there has been “a decrease in response times for priority 2, SAAS is performing as expected considering the sustained growth in emergency workload and ambulance capacity issues”.

SAAS chief executive officer Rob Elliott says the service faced “extraordinary pressures”. 

“Despite striving to meet targets, SAAS experienced deteriorating ambulance response times, missing key performance target for priority 1 patients by 1 per cent, also falling short in meeting priority 2 targets,” he said.

“I acknowledge that this needs to be improved to meet the needs of the community and particularly for our high-priority patients.

“There is no denying that it is upsetting for both our staff and our patients when community expectations are not met.”

With an extra 350 ambulance officers joining the service, including 33 paramedics in the coming days, Mr Elliott says he is “optimistic that response times will steadily improve”. 

SA Health Minister Chris Picton said the stats “highlight the system we have inherited”, but they mean that the government is “even more determined to improve ambulance response times and care for all South Australians”.

“We are giving paramedics the resources they need to do their job and building the hospital capacity to get them off the ramp and delivering timely care to patients,” he said.