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Ambulance took more than an hour to reach dying Aberdeenshire man

Police at the incident in Sauchen.
Police at the incident in Sauchen.

Ambulance chiefs have launched an investigation after it took 90 minutes for crews to reach a man who lay dying in his garden.

The Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) has come under fire for its delayed response in reaching John Thomson, who died of hypothermia after falling and injuring his head after he arrived home from a night out.

A neighbour found him at about 1pm the next day and called 999.

But it took three calls for the control room to upgrade the call to a priority, and by the time the crew arrived more than an hour later, Mr Thomson had died.

Last night, Mr Thomson’s uncle Henry described the agonising wait and said he had desperately tried to cover him up to keep him warm.

The 79-year-old revealed he only realised his nephew had died during the wait when solemn paramedics covered his body with a sheet soon after reaching his home at Sauchen, near Kemnay.

A spokesman for the ambulance service stressed that all calls were graded according to their apparent severity – but pledged to investigate the full circumstances of Mr Thomson’s death.

Mr Thomson, who was known as Jack, had attended a country music night at Thainstone Exchange, Inverurie, on Saturday, September 15, and returned home in a taxi.

He was found injured in the garden of his home at 1pm the next day, but was still breathing when the first emergency call was placed.


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It is understood the neighbour was told to expect an ambulance to arrive within 20 minutes.

In the meantime, the neighbour rushed to alert Mr Thomson’s family, who live nearby.

Mr Thomson sen, who runs the Thomson and Sons livestock transport firm, said: “Jack had taken hypothermia but was still breathing.

“But we waited and we waited and this ambulance never came.

“I was trying to cover Jack up, and after 20 minutes passed we called again to ask where the paramedics were as we realised this was pretty serious.”

It was only after a third call was made – an hour after the first – that a call centre worker in Glasgow upgraded the situation to “category one”.

At that point, an ambulance on its way to Stonehaven was diverted to Sauchen.

Mr Thomson added: “The paramedics arrived about 30 minutes after that, but unfortunately Jack died before they even got to him.

“I only realised that when they put the sheet over his head and I asked what they were doing.

“I got quite a shock, I can assure you.

“I’m not saying Jack would have been saved if they got there quicker, we don’t know that, but he certainly could have been helped more.”

Mr Thomson was buried on Wednesday, and his uncle last night paid tribute to his “hard-working” nephew – who was looking forward to receiving his pension after recently turning 65.

“He used to visit every day, we just miss him now”, Mr Thomson sen added.

An SAS spokesman said: “We would like to extend our sympathies to this patient’s family.

“We always seek to triage calls prioritising those with the highest acuity symptoms  – we will be carrying out a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding this incident.

“The ambulance dispatched was the nearest one available, it came from Banchory.

“We are not aware that there were any issues for us pinpointing the patient’s location.”

Unite the Union leader, Tommy Campbell, said the tragedy followed years of problems plaguing the ambulance service in the north-east.

He said: “We welcome the fact there will be a full investigation but this is another example of the concerns paramedics have been raising for quite a few years.

“Staff in the north-east are under pressure, working long hours with limited resources.

“This is quite a long response time, and we are interested to find out what the reason for that was.

“From our experience, it will not be the fault of the frontline staff who react to a situation as quickly as they can once they are alerted to it.”

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