Military to be deployed to help Scottish ambulance crews amid surge in Covid-19 cases

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Emergency services are under ‘acute pressure’ amid a surge in Covid-19 cases (picture shows ambulances at Glasgow Royal Hospital)  (Getty)
Emergency services are under ‘acute pressure’ amid a surge in Covid-19 cases (picture shows ambulances at Glasgow Royal Hospital) (Getty)

The Scottish government is in talks to deploy the Army to provide “targeted military assistance” for the ambulance service, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The first minister told MSPs that emergency services are under “acute pressure” as a surge in Covid-19 cases causes severe ambulance delays.

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.”

She confirmed that officials were currently “seeking targeted military assistance to help deal with short-term pressure points”.

“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,” added Ms Sturgeon.

During First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon also apologised to the family of a 65-year-old man who reportedly died after waiting 40 hours for an ambulance.

The family of Gerard Brown, from Glasgow, were told he could have survived if help had arrived sooner, according to the Herald. An investigation has been launched into the circumstances of the case and the ambulance service has said it “will be in contact with Mr Brown’s family directly to apologise for the delay”.

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that the current situation was “probably the most challenging combination of circumstances that our health service has faced since its establishment” as hospitalisations continue to rise.

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.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross criticised Mr Yousaf’s comments, calling them “dangerous and reckless”, and said cases like that of Mr Brown “shouldn’t be happening in Scotland in 2021”.

Ms Sturgeon refused to apologise for her health secretary’s comments but stressed that people should “never hesitate in calling an ambulance if that is the intervention they think is required”.

She added: “These are challenges mirrored in health services across the UK and indeed many parts of the world because of the realities of Covid.”

Scotland has experienced a surge in Covid-19 cases in the past month driven by the return of children to schools. As of September 15, the seven-day average of cases stood at 5,199, nearly four times the figure reported a month before.

On Wednesday, a further 30 deaths were reported – the highest toll in more than a month.

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