Scottish government asks military for help over ambulance crisis

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The Scottish government said that a combination of factors, mainly the pandemic, has put the ambulance service under severe pressures  (AFP via Getty Images)
The Scottish government said that a combination of factors, mainly the pandemic, has put the ambulance service under severe pressures (AFP via Getty Images)

Scotland’s government has called for support from the military to help deal with long delays for people waiting for ambulances.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon apologised “unreservedly” today to people affected by extended waits, adding that the health service was dealing with its most challenging combination of circumstances amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Those affected include the family of Gerald Brown, from Glasgow, who died aged 65 while waiting 40 hours for treatment.

The Scottish government’s request to the military relates to the support of mobile testing units currently deployed by the Scottish Ambulance Service, which would then free up resources within the service, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

A spokeswoman for the MoD said: “The Ministry of Defence has received a request from Scottish Government under the Military Aid to Civilian Authority process.

“We are working hard to identify where we can most effectively assist other government departments and civil authorities.”

The request’s confirmation by the MoD had come hours after Ms Sturgeon told MSPs during First Minister’s Questions that the possibility of the government asking for help was “under active consideration”.

She had said that the government was considering seeking “targeted military assistance to help deal with short-term pressure points” in the ambulance service, as well as providing additional funding “to support new recruitment”.

Ms Sturgeon added: “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.”

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf will make a statement in Holyrood next week to set out measures being taken by the Scottish Government to ease the health care crisis.

It comes after he said on Wednesday (15 September) that people should “think twice” before calling for an ambulance.

The Tory leader Douglas Ross criticised his comments, calling them “dangerous and reckless”.

He had urged Ms Sturgeon to apologise on his behalf – which she did not. Instead, she said people should “never hesitate in calling an ambulance if that is the intervention they think is required”.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Ambulance Service would be contacting Mr Brown’s family to apologise for the delay in response and to “pass on [their] sincerest condolences”, a spokeswoman said.

“All findings and lessons learned will be shared with Mr Brown’s family as part of the investigation process,” she added.

His death has been reported to the Procurator Fiscal, who said an investigation was “ongoing”.

Mr Brown’s bereaved relatives were told that he could have survived if help arrived sooner, The Herald newspaper reported.

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