Nicola Sturgeon pressured on claims Scotland's NHS facing a 'crisis' during First Minister's Questions

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during First Minister's Questions in the debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during First Minister's Questions in the debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during First Minister's Questions in the debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.
Nicola Sturgeon faced calls to admit emergency medical services are ‘spiralling into a crisis’ in Scotland after “shocking and unacceptable” ambulance waiting times.

The First Minister was questioned on figures which show the average wait for an ambulance in Scotland has hit six hours, with unions and paramedics claiming the waits will cost lives.

Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Douglas Ross, pressed the SNP leader on what he labelled a “crisis” in the emergency services during First Minister’s Questions.

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Speaking in the Holyrood chamber, the Highlands and Islands MSP highlighted stories in which one person in Bearsden with stroke symptoms waited more than 14 hours and how one man was forced to drive his 17-year-old son whose lips were turning blue to hospital after waiting more than half an hour for an ambulance.

Mr Ross said the delays in accident and emergency and long ambulance waiting times are “bringing our NHS to its knees and putting lives at risk”.

Responding, Ms Sturgeon admitted the wait times for ambulances were too long but defended the Scottish Ambulance Service’s response to time to the most urgent cases.

She told MSPs the median, rather than average, wait time for the top priority calls is was just over nine minutes last week and 21 minutes for ‘amber’ priority calls.

Stating this was still above target, the First Minister said “there is work to be done here” but said pressures from other parts of the NHS and from Covid-19 were exacerbating the problems.

Mr Ross, however, accused the Scottish Government of allowing pressures in the NHS from pre-pandemic to worsen during Covid-19.

He said: “This is not good enough.

"This government has allowed the long term issues to spiral into a crisis.

"People can’t see a GP in person, they call for an ambulance but it is delayed for hours, when they reach A&E, waiting times are at their worst levels since records began.

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"The Unite union said this week that ambulances were parked outside hospitals for seven hours, missing three other 999 calls while they waited.

"But this week’s programme for government set out nothing, no new money, for the Scottish ambulance service.

"Will the First Minister accept that this is a crisis and will she tell us what she’s going to do about it now before lives are lost?"

Responding, Ms Sturgeon listed more than £30m of additional investment for the ambulance service and said the £1bn NHS recovery plan would also delivery additional support to the emergency service.

She said: “I don’t challenge any of what Douglas Ross is saying in terms of there are big, big issues facing our national health service, but it is because we know that, that we are making the investment and doing the work with the service to address these issues.

“These issues for Scotland, for other countries across the UK and indeed the world, have been significantly deepened and exacerbated by a once in a century global pandemic and therefore we need to support our NHS to recover from that.

"You can find headlines just today from other parts of the UK about longest waiting times on record.

"That doesn’t in any way take away the responsibility of the Scottish Government to address these problems in Scotland.”

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