A north-east former NHS worker whose disabled father endured a 15-hour wait for an ambulance believes crews are not properly staffed to provide a quick response.
Moira Lavigillante’s father, who lives in Montrose, was returned home from hospital after needing a partial hip replacement after suffering a fall.
Within days the 88-year-old, who has dementia and has suffered two strokes, had a leg that was at a “strange angle”.
An ambulance was called to check on his welfare amid concerns he could be in a large amount of pain.
However, despite calling for assistance at 1.30pm on July 13, crews did not arrive until 4.30am the following morning.
The Scottish Ambulance Service has apologised to the family for the long wait – explaining the network was “particularly busy” at that time.
Ambulance bosses and the NHS have explained long waits for ambulances are due to Covid capacity restrictions at A&E wards – leading to patients not being able to be dropped off.
The delays mean paramedics are sometimes being forced to wait hours before being able to take them through hospital doors.
However, Mrs Lavigillante believes the issues are a result of years of under-resourcing, which have led to current staff numbers being unable to cope.
‘We were powerless while waiting’
Mrs Lavigillante’s father has significant mobility issues after suffering two strokes.
Concerns immediately grew for his welfare after it was noticed his leg was at a “strange obtuse angle”, which he was unable to straighten, while he was lying down.
However, despite an ambulance arriving promptly at his Montrose home following his initial fall, and him being X-rayed and treated quickly at hospital in Dundee, the family was forced to wait through the night.
Mrs Lavigillante, who worked in the NHS for 35 years and lives near Montrose, said: “There were a few updates through the day from the ambulance service saying that due to high demand there were delays and they would get to us as quick as they can.
“As the day went on I really started to wonder what had happened to the NHS.
“Here was somebody with a leg he was unable to straighten, nobody seemed to know why, he was possibly in pain, and we were just powerless – all we could do was wait.
“It’s a bad situation but at the end of the day they are under-staffed, I’m sure they would say so themselves, which isn’t specifically the ambulance service’s fault, but everything seems to get blamed on Covid.”
What needs done to reduce delays?
After waiting 15-hours for an ambulance to arrive in Montrose, Mrs Lavigillante’s father was treated speedily at Ninewells Hosptal in Dundee.
It is estimated he arrived at the hospital at about 5am and after being X-rayed and assessed was back home again in Montrose by 8.30am the same day.
The Scottish Ambulance Service says three new vehicles have recently come into service in the Dundee and Angus area to assist with less urgent calls to relieve the pressure on emergency crews.
More emergency ambulances are also due to come into service in Dundee and Monifieth to also help reduce delays.
However, Mrs Lavigillante believes more needs to be done to resolve the problems.
She said: “It’s a difficult situation, but what happened with my dad could be happening to other people.
“I can understand the difficulties, and they did keep in contact during the wait, but they’ve still made an 88-year-old wait that length of time for an ambulance – and then arrived at 4.30am.
“It’s just ridiculous.”
‘Extreme pressure on NHS services’
The ambulance service and NHS say the extreme pressure of recent months is due to hospital capacities being reduced due to Covid while some staff also self-isolate and take annual leave.
Officials have stressed the services are cross-dependent with knock-on effects from one affecting the other – warning there is no end in sight to the plight.
It is understood the easing of Covid restrictions has led to an increase in demand.
Meanwhile, residents across the north and north-east have been urged to only call 999 if their situation is life-threatening to free up capacity for urgent cases.
A Scottish Ambulance Service spokeswoman explained the delay Mrs Lavigillante’s father faced are due to the same issues.
She said: “As with the whole of the NHS across Scotland, we are currently experiencing extreme pressure on our services as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Restrictions easing, staff abstractions and lengthy hospital patient handovers have unfortunately resulted in an increase in delays to ambulances reaching patients.
“While we can’t provide specific details due to confidentially, we’d like to apologise to the family for the wait time.
“It was a particularly busy period for the Service at the time, and frequent checks were made by our ambulance control centre, until resources were made available.”
More on north-east ambulance delays…
- ‘I was screaming in pain’: Heart attack victim relives near-death ordeal after being told no ambulance was available
- Warning of continuing ambulance delays amid ‘busiest period of entire pandemic’
- Patients say pandemic is ‘no excuse’ for ambulance delays to continue
- North-east woman’s 20-hour wait to be taken to hospital ended in sepsis diagnosis