More than 3,000 people waited longer than eight hours for an ambulance last year, with one patient in the second most severe category waiting a day and a half, figures show.
Statistics released to the Scottish Liberal Democrats under freedom of information legislation showed 3,652 people waited more than 480 minutes for an ambulance – five of whom were considered the second most severe level recorded by the Scottish Ambulance Service.
The figure amounts to less than 0.7% of total ambulance callouts last year.
Calls are considered “red” if there is a 1% to 9.9% chance of cardiac arrest in the patient, or if the need for resuscitation is 2% or higher.
Some 45 people in the amber category waited longer than eight hours in 2021-22, the figures show, while the vast majority – 3,602 – were in the lowest yellow category.
The release showed that at least one person waited longer than six hours for an ambulance after being assessed as a purple call – the most severe level where the rate of cardiac arrest is approximately 53% – although the exact number waiting this long is not known because it is lower than five.
The longest response time for purple calls last year was 363 minutes – just over six hours – while someone assessed in the red category waited 2,175 minutes – 36 hours and 15 minutes.
The longest time for amber or yellow category calls was around 29 hours.
Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the figures should “set emergency lights flashing” in the Scottish Government.
“When someone is in a moment of crisis and chooses to call 999, they want to know that there will be someone at the other end of the line able to help them,” he said.
“These figures should set emergency lights flashing in the Health Secretary’s office.
“The SNP continuously ignored the warnings of ambulance staff for years. We are now seeing the results of that neglect.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats have called for an inquiry into avoidable emergency care deaths.
“The Health Secretary should admit that he had previously underestimated the scale of the challenge and that the present NHS recovery plan is not up to scratch.
“Swift action might be the difference between life and death.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “The pandemic has been the biggest challenge the NHS has faced in its 74-year existence and has heaped pressure on our ambulance service and wider NHS.
“Our ambulance crews continue to see a rise in response to the most serious incidents but continue to respond to 99% of high priority calls in under 30 minutes.
“Our funding boost to the service has seen record recruitment of 540 additional ambulance staff last year, to ensure it is working as efficiently as possible.”