Stroke and seizure patients could wait up to 19 minutes under new targets approved by NHS bosses.
The Mail on Sunday has uncovered a secret plan to double the time ambulances can take to reach critically ill patients.
The current target is for an emergency vehicle to reach those in life-threatening situations within eight minutes.
But a document seen by this newspaper reveals that the target time to get to those suffering a range of serious problems including strokes and seizures is to be increased to 19 minutes.
Last night leading doctors said the scheme – designed to make it easier for ambulance services to hit targets they have missed for months – risked lives.
The astonishing memo – leaked by a whistleblower – reveals that the changes have been approved by NHS England, but bosses wanted implementation delayed until after the General Election in May.
However, they discussed bringing the plan forward at a series of secret high-level meetings, because of ‘unprecedented pressure’ on emergency services.
The revelations come as the NHS faces a wider winter crisis with top medics warning: ‘Don’t get ill this Christmas.’