Pressure mounted on Shona Robison yesterday when a terminally ill cancer patient called on her to quit after she had to wait more than two hours for an ambulance.
Margaret Goodman, 58, urged Ms Robison to resign as Health Secretary after her distressing ordeal was raised during a Holyrood session that saw three politicians call for her to stand down.
Later Ms Goodman described the indignity she suffered as a result of the “horrendous” episode which eventually saw her husband Gavin forced to drive her to A&E after an ambulance failed to arrive.
The grandmother and secondary school teacher from Clackmannanshire, who has been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour, collapsed in excruciating pain in her house earlier this month. Her husband found her curled in a ball at 11:30pm on Saturday 7 April and phoned the palliative care helpline that had been set up for her.
Mr Goodman was told to bring his wife to Forth Valley hospital, Larbert, at 2am. But given the extreme pain she was in, Mr Goodman was reluctant to move her and asked if a doctor could attend the house. The reply was that the couple would have to wait until 4am before a doctor could be spared to make a home visit.
At that moment, district nurses arrived at the family home and immediately declared that the situation was a medical emergency and telephoned 999 for an ambulance. There was no sign of the emergency vehicle, so they called another two times. The nurses were then called to another incident and told Mr Goodman to call for the ambulance again if one did not arrive within 15 minutes.
He telephoned at 2:15am to be told there was no record of previous calls on the system and he would have to initiate a new call. Mr Goodman then took the decision to drive her to hospital. A paramedic was asked for help, but Mr Goodman was told to take his wife to the A &E waiting room, which was full of Saturday night casualties.
After pleading with reception for help, a nurse gave Ms Goodman some morphine to relieve her pain at 3am. She was finally seen by a doctor at 7am.
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard raised her case during stormy First Minister’s Questions, which saw Nicola Sturgeon apologise for the ordeal suffered by the brain cancer patient.
Ms Sturgeon agreed that her treatment had been “unacceptable” and extended an invitation to Ms Goodman to meet with Ms Robison.
Mr Leonard told the chamber research by his party had revealed that 16,865 emergency 999 ambulances took longer than an hour to arrive on scene in 2017.
Calling for Ms Robison’s departure, he said: “The debate about our NHS is not just about statistics in the end, it is about real lives and real people like Margaret.
“Out in the real world, Scotland’s health service staff are being failed. Those district nurses, our hospital doctors, those ambulance crews – they are all being failed, failed by your government, and Scotland’s patients, they are being failed as well, including people like Margaret.
“How much more failure must people endure, before you finally realise that we need a change in our NHS, starting with a change of your health secretary?”
Ms Goodman watched the exchanges from the public gallery and afterwards described how she had been left “in agony” and with “no dignity”.
She said it was “quite unlikely” that she would take up Ms Sturgeon’s invitation to see Ms Robison because she was “exhausted”. But she added: “What I would say is that, ‘This is really bad’. But should she be there? The health secretary?”
When asked if Ms Robison should resign, Ms Goodman replied: “I think she should. There should be something. This isn’t about, ‘We’ll look at it and put something in place for 16,000 people’. I was shocked. That’s scary. She’s the one at the top. It is always the one at the top. Who else is responsible? Who’s put this in place?”
Earlier the Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie called on Ms Robison to go when he highlighted the case of a pregnant woman from Caithness who was forced to give birth 260 miles from home because of a shortage of specialist cots.
Labour’s Neil Findlay joined the chorus of calls for her departure when he highlighted GP shortages at First Minister’s Questions.
A spokesperson from the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “We received a call at 01:26 hours which was not immediately life threatening and were advised at 02:11 that the ambulance was no longer required. However, Mrs Goodman waited longer than we would have liked and we would like to apologise. We are happy to meet with her to discuss this further and we are investigating the circumstances.
“All patients are prioritised to ensure the sickest, and most seriously injured patients receive the fastest response and our median response time for immediately life threatening incidents in March was seven minutes and nine seconds.
“The priority of our hard-working staff continues to be on saving lives.”
Cathie Cowan, NHS Forth Valley chief executive, said: “We are sorry to hear that this family were unhappy with the care given at Forth Valley Royal Hospital and would be happy to meet with them to discuss any aspects of the treatment provided.
“An initial review has confirmed that this patient was triaged within minutes of arriving at the hospital at 2.44am and was moved shortly afterwards to a side room where she was assessed by a member of the clinical team and given pain relief.”