Scotland

Sturgeon Asks Military To Help Scotland's Ambulance Waiting Times

The Scottish First Minister responded after being questioned about the death of a man who waited 40 hours for an ambulance.

The military has been asked to help Scotland's ambulance service after a "not acceptable" waiting time before the death of a man from Glasgow.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was questioned about the death of Gerald Brown, 65, from Glasgow, who died after waiting for 40 hours for an ambulance, the Herald reported on Thursday.

The first minister apologised "unreservedly" for long waiting times and confirmed that targeted military assistance to help deal with "short-term pressure points" is under consideration.

She offered her condolences to the family of Mr Brown but said the issues in the service would continue "for a period" as pressure caused by the pandemic continues and the winter months draw closer.

Ms Sturgeon said the waiting times for some patients were "not acceptable", adding: "I apologise unreservedly to anyone that has suffered or is suffering unacceptably long waits.

"A range of actions have already been taken to address these challenges, for example, additional funding to support new recruitment.

"A number of additional actions are currently under active consideration and I’m happy to summarise these in further exchanges, but I can confirm now that this includes consideration of seeking targeted military assistance to help deal with short-term pressure points."

The Scottish Government has requested military assistance to deal with pressure on the ambulance service north of the border, the Ministry of Defence has since confirmed.

"Such military assistance is already being provided to ambulance services in England and of course we have had military assistance for other aspects of the pandemic over the past 18 months," Ms Sturgeon added.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, who said on Wednesday that people should "think twice" before calling for an ambulance, will make a statement to parliament next week, setting out measures being taken by the Scottish government to ease the crisis.

Watch: UK military personnel assisting with coronavirus vaccinations in Scotland in June.

Tory leader Douglas Ross criticised Mr Yousaf's comments, calling them "dangerous and reckless", and urged the first minister to apologise on Mr Yousaf's behalf.

Refusing to apologise, the first minister instead contradicted her health minister, saying Scots should "never hesitate in calling an ambulance if that is the intervention they think is required".

Ms Sturgeon also refused to say there was a crisis, instead saying: "I don't challenge the extent of the pressure that's on our ambulance service and indeed on all parts of our national health service.

Responding to the reports of Mr Brown's death, a spokeswoman from the Scottish Ambulance Service said: "We have started an investigation into the circumstances relating to the delay in reaching Mr Brown and will be in contact with Mr Brown's family directly to apologise for the delay in response and pass on our sincere condolences.

"We are really sorry for their loss and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time. All findings and lessons learned will be shared with Mr Brown's family as part of the investigation process."

Mr Brown's death has been reported to the Procurator Fiscal – the Scottish prosecution service – which said an investigation was "ongoing".