Long ambulance waits soar for Scots patients

Ambulance call-out responses which took more than 10 minutes have nearly doubled over four years, according to official figures. Picture: John Devlin.
Ambulance call-out responses which took more than 10 minutes have nearly doubled over four years, according to official figures. Picture: John Devlin.
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Ambulance call-out responses which took more than 10 minutes have nearly doubled over four years, according to official figures.

And there were 4,800 people who had to wait more than two hours for an ambulance to arrive last year.

Ambulance chiefs say the delays are down to the introduction of a new system which prioritises patients in most need, while demand has also gone up. However opposition parties insist the service has been underfunded in recent years.

The number of emergency calls which took more than ten minutes to be responded to almost doubled to 305,000 between 2013/14 and 2017/18, Health Secretary Jeanne Freeman revealed in Parliamentary answers. Last month it emerged that the number of single-crew ambulances being dispatched in Scotland rose by almost 50 per cent during this same period.

Labour MSP Daniel Johnson, who obtained the information through Holyrood questions, said the Scottish Government is not giving the ambulance service enough funding to cope with demand.

“Our ambulance staff perform life-saving work every day, but are under pressure like never before, and these are shocking figures which will concern many members of the public,” he said.

“It’s well known that for a number of illnesses a swift response time can make all the difference. Not only are thousands of Scots having to wait more than two hours for an ambulance, we know that the number of ambulances being dispatched with a single crew has rocketed. These new figures make clear that the SNP government is continually letting down the public and letting down paramedics due to its chronic under-funding of our NHS.

“Labour would invest in the Scottish Ambulance Service, ensuring it has the equipment and staff it needs to continue its life-saving work.”

The figures also show that the number of Scots waiting more than an hour has oared to almost 27,00 last year – up from 3,600 in 3013/14.

But a spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said the figures are partly down to the introduction of a new system in November 2016.

“We have changed the way we respond to calls and are now deliberately prioritising the sickest, most seriously ill patients in Scotland,” he said.

“As a result, we have almost doubled survival rates for cardiac arrest patients since 2013.

“For less urgent cases, our call handlers now spend more time understanding patient’s clinical needs to ensure we send the right, not necessarily the nearest resource.

“The result has been slightly longer response times for patients whose lives are not immediately at risk – but consequently, last year we saved the lives of an additional 62 patients who had suffered an out of hospital cardiac arrest.”