‘It was horrifying': Edinburgh pensioner, 98, left waiting 16 hours for ambulance to come to her aid

The daughter of a 98-year-old woman has spoken of her mother’s ‘horrifying’ ordeal, after she was forced to lie on her living room floor for more than 16 hours waiting on emergency services to come to her aid.

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Margaret Rothery, 98, was completing a 10-day course of antibiotics to treat a painful urinary tract infection (UTI) when she became acutely unwell in the early hours of Saturday, August 14.

After falling and bumping her head on the way to the bathroom of her Fairmilehead home at 2pm, Mrs Rothery's 72-year-old daughter Ruth Rothery called 999 at 2.30pm and asked for an ambulance.

Margaret Rothery in her Fairmilehead home on her 98th birthday.


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Two hours later no help had arrived and Ruth Rothery received a call informing her that the ambulance service was too busy to come straight away, but reassured her that they would be there soon.

“My mother was becoming increasingly unwell,” said Ms Rothery. “The ambulance team called me every two hours from then on to apologise for delays. They even recommended I call the fall service because they thought it would get there more quickly.”

The mother and daughter waited 16 and a half hours for the ambulance to arrive at 7am on Sunday morning. The fall service arrived shortly after this at 7.10am.

Ms Rothery continued: “It was horrifying for my mother to have to wait. It was awful to see.”


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Ruth received a phone call from the ambulance service every two hours for 16 and a half hours informing her that the emergancy services were too busy to assist her mother.

During the long wait, Ms Rothery’s mother had to make several painful trips to the toilet, and, at 5.10pm on Saturday, she fell and was unable to stand back up.

Ms Rothery attempted to help her mother from the floor, but was unable to lift her.

“She was not able to get to the bathroom after that,” said the shaken daughter. “I will leave the rest up to your imagination but it was a very distressing situation for my mother to be in.”


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When an ambulance arrived at the Edinburgh home on Sunday morning crew members were able to help Ms Rothery’s mother off the floor and into the ambulance. By then she has spent nearly 14-hours on the floor.

Edinburgh councillor Scott Arthur said he was ‘appalled’ to hear how long his constituent had to wait for help.

“The crew looked absolutely exhausted when they arrived,” said Ms Rothery. “They apologised for our wait but said there was nothing they could do about it. They seemed as frustrated as I was."

Margaret Rothery is now at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh being treated for a UTI with antibiotics, it is not yet known when she will be well enough to leave.


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We would like to apologise for the delay

The Scottish Ambulance Service issued an apology and said the delay was due to a reduction of resources combined with the high number of calls to the service.

A spokesperson from the service said: “We would like to apologise for the delay in responding to Mrs Rothery and her daughter.

“While we are limited in what we can say due to patient confidentiality, at the time of the call, we were experiencing a significant reduction in resources across Edinburgh, combined with high demand.


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“During this time, our clinical advisers contacted the patient several times while waiting for a resource to become available. We will be reviewing this case thoroughly and will contact the patient privately to apologise.”

National rise in ambulance waiting times

The Rothery family are one of many Scottish families who have faced a lengthy wait for emergency medical care.

Statistics published last week show that 17,697 patients waited more than two hours for an ambulance in 2020/21.


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Findings also revealed only 70.9 per cent of the most urgent 999 calls waited fewer than 10 minutes for an ambulance – down from 80.8 per cent in 2018/19.

A total of 125 patients waited more than 30 minutes and six patients waited more than an hour for an ambulance, despite their calls being triaged as purple, the most serious and urgent response category.

These figures were published in response to a parliamentary question from Scottish Labour's health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie who said the increase of wait times is “putting lives at risk”.

Increased wait times caused by pressures of Covid-19


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The Scottish Ambulance Service said it is currently facing “extreme pressure” due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic which has caused increased wait times.

A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “As with the whole of the NHS across Scotland, we are currently experiencing extreme pressure on our services as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Restrictions easing, staff isolating and lengthy hospital patient handovers have unfortunately resulted in an increase in delays to ambulances reaching patients.

"Our staff are working incredibly hard during this challenging time to attend to patients as quickly as possible. As part of our Demand and Capacity programme to increase our resilience, we’re introducing additional staff, ambulances and the latest equipment across the country as we develop and grow our workforce at pace to respond to the demands made for our services.”

Local councillor “ashamed” to hear of 16 hour wait time


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Edinburgh councillor Scott Arthur supported his constituents Ruth and Margaret Rothery after the ordeal.

The local politician said their experience shows the human impact of increased wait time for ambulances.

He said: “I was appalled and ashamed to hear that Margaret had to wait over 16 hours for an ambulance in Scotland’s capital city.

“Worrying statistics published last week highlighted that 17,697 people had to wait over 2 hours for an ambulance in 2020/21, but Margaret’s case highlights the human impact of this.


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“It is clear that the Scottish Ambulance Service is not being supported properly, and that people like Margaret are paying the price. We have to ask serious questions when Deliveroo can get to us quicker than an ambulance.”

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