Sturgeon under fire after pensioner dies at home while waiting 40 hours for ambulance

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EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 09: Scotland's First Minister and leader of the Scottish National party Nicola Sturgeon during the First Minister's Questions in the Scottish Parliament Building on September 9, 2021 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo Russell Cheyne - Pool/Getty Images)
SNP Nicola Sturgeon has revealed that she may call in the army to help deal with ambulance waiting times in Scotland. (Getty)

Nicola Sturgeon has apologised “unreservedly” for long ambulance waiting times in Scotland after a pensioner died after waiting 40 hours for emergency services to arrive.

The first minister and SNP leader was questioned about the death of Gerald Brown, a 65-year-old from Glasgow, who died after waiting 40 hours for an ambulance.

Dad-of-three Brown weighed only six stone and suffered from a number of health issues.

He contacted emergency services on Monday but they did not reach him until Wednesday, when he had already passed away.

The former engineer had fallen and was unable to get up to unlock his door, and was dangerously dehydrated and requiring oxygen treatment.

A concierge gained access to the property and called for an ambulance at 11am, with Gerard's family told they faced a 10-hour wait.

The crisis was branded "third world" by Gerard's GP Dr Patrick O'Neill, who had intervened to urge for it to be prioritised.

EDINBURGH, UNITED KINGDOM - 2021/07/15: The Scottish Ambulance Service attends an emergency in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A man had to wait 40 hours for an ambulance in Scotland. (Getty)

Brown's son Dylan said: "They pronounced that he was only just dead because he still had warmth in his body.

"In this day and age, it should not be happening.

"I know with COVID people are busy and the NHS is struggling, but that’s unacceptable and we just don’t want it happening to another family.

Dylan said Dr O'Neill believed if the NHS had made it in time his dad would have survived.

"That’s the hardest part to accept," he said.

It comes after a recent surge in coronavirus cases has resulted in rising numbers of patients in Scottish hospitals with the virus – with the total now greater than 1,000 for the first time since February.

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.

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“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.”

Sturgeon said military assistance is “already being provided to ambulance services in England”, and said suggested Scotland could do the same.

The military is already providing some assistance to help Scotland deal with the pandemic.

She admitted the issues in the service would continue “for a period” as pressure caused by the pandemic continues and the winter months draw closer.

Brown's case has been referred to the procurator fiscal and the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, with the Scottish Ambulance Service promising to "learn" from the tragedy.

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.

The Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross criticised Yousaf’s comments, calling them “dangerous and reckless”, and urged the first minister to apologise on Yousaf’s behalf – which she did not.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 14: Humza Yousaf Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care speaks in the chamber prior to Scotland's First Minister and leader of the Scottish National party, Nicola Sturgeon, delivering her coronavirus update in the Scottish Parliament Building on September 14, 2021 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Sturgeon's address comes after yesterday's announcement from top health officials in the four U.K. nations that the Covid-19 vaccine should be given to 12 to 15-year-olds. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell - Pool/Getty Images)
Scotland's health secretary Humza Yousaf said on Wednesday that people should 'think twice' before calling for an ambulance. (Getty)

Ross said: “This shouldn’t be happening in Scotland in 2021.”

He added: “Last week, the first minister wouldn’t accept the ambulance service is in crisis, surely the last seven days will have changed her mind?”

Sturgeon 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.

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EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 01: Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon arrives to update MSPs on Covid-19 restrictions at Scottish Parliament on September 01, 2021, in Edinburgh, Scotland. At the end of the month, Scottish government plans to introduce vaccine passports as a requirement for entry into nightclubs, adult entertainment venues and some live music events. (Photo by Fraser Bremner - Pool/Getty Images)
Nicola Sturgeon said the waiting times for some patients were 'not acceptable'. (Getty)

“It is incumbent on me as first minister, with all of my colleagues across government, as it faces up to these challenges.”

Pressure because of coronavirus, the first minister said, was driving the problems being seen in the sector.

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.

“The fact that anyone in our country waits an unacceptable period of time for an ambulance when they need urgent care is not acceptable to me and it’s not acceptable to anyone, and that is why we will work closely and intensively with the ambulance service to support it to meet those challenges, which I would expect to continue for a period as the COVID pressure continues and as we go into the winter months.”

Watch: What is in the government's winter COVID plan?