John Swinney apologises over emergency care on Skye after woman nearly died while waiting for ambulance

Scotland's first minister has apologised to a woman who nearly died while waiting almost an hour for an ambulance after going into anaphylactic shock.

Eilidh Beaton, 27, was just 200 yards from Portree Community Hospital on Skye when she suffered a severe allergic reaction on Saturday, but the medical facility was closed and all available ambulances were on other calls.

She was assisted by RNLI volunteers who gave her oxygen from their boat until an ambulance eventually arrived.

Ms Beaton was at a pub when she fell ill but had earlier attended the Skye Live music festival, where another woman, Heather Aird, died after taking unwell at the event.

At First Minister's Questions on Thursday, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross highlighted Ms Beaton's case and asked John Swinney if he accepted "this should never have been allowed to happen".

In response, Mr Swinney said: "I agree with Mr Ross, this should never have happened.

"I, first of all, want to express my sincere condolences to the family of the individual who lost their life. And I want to say to Eilidh directly that I am sorry for the experience, the terrifying experience, that she had on Saturday night."

In 2018, a review by Dr Sir Lewis Ritchie recommended the out-of-hours service at Portree Community Hospital should be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Mr Swinney stated: "As Mr Ross will be aware, Portree Hospital is not operating currently as a 24/7 emergency facility.

"Sir Lewis Ritchie recommended some years ago that it should be and it is a matter of deep concern to the government that that has not happened.

"The health secretary (Neil Gray) spoke with the leadership of NHS Highland yesterday to make it clear that we want that to happen at the earliest possible opportunity."

The first minister also shared the "admiration and appreciation" of the Scottish government to those who helped Ms Beaton, including a coastguard team.

Pressed on why the recommendation has not been followed six years after the review, Mr Swinney clarified there was a three-year period where the hospital was open overnight, but that has since changed because of staffing issues, which the first minister accepted was "not good enough".

The review also said the Scottish Ambulance Service should improve its presence in the area.

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Following FMQs, Mr Ross stated: "It's not more empty words that are needed - it's action.

"As this incident has shown, there are black spots across the country where urgent treatment is often unavailable.

"There are sometimes no ambulances if you live in the wrong place. There is a postcode lottery for emergency care.

"The rural healthcare crisis is costing lives and putting people at risk.

"John Swinney must act now to make sure everybody in Scotland, wherever they live, has the same access to urgent healthcare."

A spokesperson for NHS Highland said it had met local campaigners on the issue in Portree last month and it was "helpful to hear and understand the concerns of community members".

The spokesperson said: "The new CEO Fiona Davies, and chair, Sarah Compton-Bishop, underlined our commitment to completing the outstanding recommendations of the Sir Lewis Ritchie review, including urgent care provision in north Skye.

"The need for improved communication is fully acknowledged and the launch of the new district planning group for Skye, Lochalsh and South West Ross earlier this month will help us to continue to work collaboratively with the local communities.

"We will be liaising with the Scottish Ambulance Service in relation to this incident as part of our investigations and to take forward any learning for both organisations."