A businessman has claimed a 13-hour wait for an Aberdeen ambulance to take his grieving mother to hospital only ended because he pleaded for help on Twitter.
Iain Anderson called for “urgent” medical help for his mum, who is in her 80s, at about 6pm on Tuesday, August 3.
But it was not until shortly before 7am the following morning that paramedics finally arrived.
Through the night Mr Anderson, who is chairman of communications agency Cicero/amo, received a string of phone calls apologising for the delay along with revised arrival estimates – which were missed.
The businessman believes it was not until he pleaded for help on social media that action appeared to be taken.
He said: “You shouldn’t have to head to Twitter to get an ambulance.”
The Scottish Ambulance Service has apologised for the through-the-night delay, explaining it has been prioritising its resources amid a “high level of demand”.
‘No empathy from the system’
Mr Anderson’s mother’s trip to hospital came just days after her husband died.
When emergency medical help was needed on that occasion an ambulance arrived within four minutes – a response Mr Anderson described as “amazing”.
However, just days later he experienced the other side of a call-handling system he described as “unsympathetic”.
He said: “It was just off the scale in terms of a bad response.
“There were a lot of processes but absolutely no sense of empathy from the system.
“There was no sense of being able to do anything about it.
“My mum’s case was set up as a transport ambulance, instead of an emergency, which I thought was wrong.
“It was dangerous to move her on our own, we were told not to do that, so we had to wait. I got out a duvet and tried to make her comfortable without getting her into bed, because the ambulance might have arrived.
“It was only when I sent that tweet and it got picked up by one or two influential people that I was suddenly getting a call about it being an emergency situation.
“It was only then I felt like I was speaking to someone making a clinical assessment instead of speaking off a script.”
I need your prayers for my mum – having been widowed on Sunday night – she has been formally admitted to @NHSGrampian Ward 102 for urgent treatment – but we are awaiting @Scotambservice to arrive after 10 hours wait – pls help us
— Iain Anderson (@iain_w_anderson) August 4, 2021
‘Care is amazing, but getting to hospital sucks’
Since being admitted to hospital on Wednesday morning, Mr Anderson has reported that his mother is recovering well.
He has praised the care from NHS Grampian teams in Aberdeen, but believes the stresses and pressures on the Scottish ambulance system have created an “unsympathetic” experience.
He said: “When my father died there was so much care, empathy and, frankly, love. It’s been exactly the same with my mother.
“The paramedics were exceptional too. It’s just the waiting and getting to hospital bit that sucks.
“The centralisation of the system struck me. I was getting calls from a Glasgow number, which I’m assuming is where the place is that handles these things.
“Getting to Foresterhill is a 10-minute job but we had been advised not to do it. The call centre didn’t understand the local geography to compute that.
“The other thing is that the system is at breaking point. Every single time the call handlers spent more time apologising and saying the system was very busy than anything else.
“It’s stretched beyond belief, and this is the problem.”
Concerns about Scottish ambulance delays
Concerns about the Scottish Ambulance Service being stretched to the max, causing delays, have been reported for several years.
This week a heart attack victim in Argyll, who needed a triple bypass to save his life, was rushed to hospital by a neighbour when no ambulance was free to help him.
Fears of staff shortages led to north-east and Highland crews passing a vote of no-confidence in bosses in 2017, among other grievances.
And a taxi driver was forced to step in to transport a woman in labour from Elgin to Aberdeen when no ambulance was available in September 2018.
The Scottish Ambulance Service says it is making improvements with 13 new paramedics and four new ambulance care assistant posts due to be in position in the coming months.
It says it also has plans to grow the workforce “at pace” alongside extra staff, ambulances and equipment to cope with demand.
A spokesman said: “We would like to offer a sincere apology to the patient for this delay.
“Like other parts of the NHS, we are experiencing high levels of demand due to restrictions easing and staff isolating, which is leading to delays.
“We prioritise our responses and our ambulance resources according to clinical need, ensuring that our sickest patients receive the most urgent response, and our staff are working extremely hard to get to patients as soon as they can.”