Man dies of hypothermia after waiting 90 minutes for ambulance

A man was left to die in his garden of hypothermia after other patients were graded as more serious, ambulance bosses have admitted.

The SAS said overstretched crews were dealing with a high level of calls. Picture: John Devlin
The SAS said overstretched crews were dealing with a high level of calls. Picture: John Devlin

Paramedics were unable to reach Jack Thomson, 65, until 90 minutes after a 999 call was placed by his neighbour in Sauchen, near Inverurie, Aberdeenshire.

Priority had been given to two other calls at about the same time.

The Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) said overstretched crews had been dealing with an “exceptionally high level” of emergency calls.

Mr Thomson died of hypothermia in September, and an internal investigation into the delay in reaching him has now concluded.

The SAS determined that the control room staff who took the call, and did not grade the situation as an emergency, were not at fault.

Instead, the investigation found that the delay was the result of “exceptionally high levels of demand” caused by “a number of very urgent, high priority calls”.

North East MSP Lewis Macdonald last night said the tragedy showed the service was “not equipped to deal with high demand” in the area, and raised fears that more lives will be lost unless investment is made in more crews and vehicles.

He said: “People are bound to fear that lives will be lost if there are not enough ambulances to reach every critical case in time.”

Mr Thomson had attended a country music night at Thainstone Exchange, Inverurie, on Saturday 15 September and returned home in a taxi.

He was found injured in his garden at home in Sauchen at 1pm the next day, but was still breathing when the first emergency call was placed.

It is understood that his concerned neighbour was told to expect paramedics within 20 minutes, but it took three calls for the control room to prioritise the matter.

Mr Thomson’s 79-year-old uncle, Henry, lives nearby and raced to be with him. He only realised his nephew had died during the wait when the crew finally arrived and covered his body with a sheet.

The increasingly frantic 999 calls placed by Mr Thomson’s neighbour as he waited for the ambulance to arrive were reviewed as part of the internal investigation.

But it was found that several “immediately life-threatening” calls had forced ambulances en route to Sauchen to divert elsewhere, causing the delay.