SNP failures putting Scotland's ambulance crews in an impossible position – Miles Briggs MSP

Three weeks ago, the Edinburgh Evening News reported on the case of Margaret Rothery, 98.

By Miles Briggs
Thursday, 16th September 2021, 4:45 pm
The average wait for an ambulance in Scotland is about six hours, according to the latest figures (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA)
The average wait for an ambulance in Scotland is about six hours, according to the latest figures (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA)

Mrs Rothery waited on the floor for an ambulance for more than 16 hours, after falling and bumping her head.

She and her daughter Ruth clearly had a very traumatic experience waiting so long for an ambulance, but they aren’t the only family.

Last week at First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross asked if Scotland’s ambulance service is in crisis following the publication of the latest figures from the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) showing average waits of six hours following a 999 call.

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The First Minister deflected the criticism that waiting times for ambulances times are too long by blaming the pandemic.

Pressure on the SAS was extremely high before the pandemic, due to a lack of resources being provided by SNP ministers and a failure to workforce plan prior to the pandemic.

Scotland’s paramedics and ambulance technicians work incredibly hard to care for people in emergencies, but they are simply becoming worn out and worn down. Being understaffed and under-resourced has put the SAS in an impossible position.

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Constantly being rediverted to go to a call which is a higher level of emergency, due to a lack of available crews, means that some people are left for hours on end for an ambulance.

Statistics published in August this year showed that 17,697 patients waited more than two hours for an ambulance in 2020/21.

What is also very concerning is that the number of people waiting over ten minutes for an urgent call is going up. Recent figures show that 70.9 per cent of the most urgent 999 calls waited fewer than 10 minutes for an ambulance, this is compared to 80.8 per cent in 2018/19.

It is unacceptable that Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP have allowed for things to get to this stage. Announcing funding after the SAS has got to breaking point is simply not good enough. It takes time to hire and train ambulance technicians and paramedics, which should have been funded well before now.

Paramedics have described the situation as relentless and many are considering leaving the profession.

Ultimately it is people who are waiting on average six hours for an ambulance and for some many hours more, who have been let down. People are having to wait in agony for an ambulance to arrive, which is also distressing for the people who are with them.

Ambulance technicians and paramedics don’t have a choice, they simply have to go the calls which are the greatest emergency. Simply put, we need more ambulance crews.

Peoples lives are being put at risk, because SNP ministers haven’t properly resourced the SAS over a number of years.

Nicola Sturgeon can stand up at Holyrood and make a list of excuses for why the SAS is in crisis – but the buck stops with her.

However much spin the First Minister wants use, it doesn’t change the fact that the SNP government has been in charge of Scotland’s health service for the last 14 years.

During this period, waiting times have got significantly longer, including for an emergency ambulance. Enough excuses First Minister – it’s time for action.

Miles Briggs is a Scottish Conservative MSP for Lothian

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