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The Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) have issued an apology to two woman who were left lying on the street for hours in Edinburgh as they waited on an ambulance. The first woman who suffered a broken collarbone had began to show signs of hypothermia by the time the ambulance did eventually arrive. This occured the same day that an 86-year-old was left waiting for 2 and a half hours following a fall in another area of the Scottish capital. It has added to an already bad week for the service as staff are to ballot on strike action because of excessive shift lengths.
The first incident occurred shortly after 1pm on Monday when a woman believed to be in her 30s fell and suffered a suspected broken collarbone. Several members of the public called 999 but the woman was triaged as non-life threatening so was put in a queue.
This in itself is not usually an issue as patients with greater need must obviously be attended to first. What’s not acceptable for anyone to lie in a cold wet street for over 3 hours.
By 4pm there was still no sign of an ambulance despite more calls to emergency services by worried passers by.
Resident Frank Galbraith told The Edinburgh Evening News, 59;
“She was in distress, unable to move and shivering badly. By 4pm it had started to rain with various people laying jackets on her to keep her warm and dry.
An ambulance eventually arrived at 4.45pm to take her to hospital but it is absolutely not acceptable for this woman to be laid for that length of time.”
“Everyone was shocked at how long she had been laid there for.”
Shortly before the ambulance did arrive a passing doctor noted that the woman was beginning to show signs of hypothermia. When the woman was eventually taken to hospital it was confirmed that she had in-fact broken her collarbone.
Lighting strikes twice
Around 2.30pm the same day, an ambulance was called for an 86-year-old woman who had had fallen and split her jaw open. After waiting an hour and with no sign of an ambulance regulars at a local pub moved the “distraught” pensioner inside to keep her warm.
This was again as a result of the triage system employed by The Scottish Ambulance Service. As the pensioner didn’t fail the so-called “safety questions” she was deemed not to be a priority. A series of questions are asked by the call handler to determine if the patient’s life is immediate danger.
These could include;
- Are they having breathing difficulties?
- Do they have chest pains?
- Are they confused or non responsive?
- Is the patient bleeding at all?
This is not an exhaustive list but if you’ve ever called an 999 or the NHS out of hours service you will no doubt have gone through the same questions.
Bad week for the Scottish Ambulance Service
It has not been a good week for the Scotland’s Ambulance Service. As-well as these two incidents in Edinburgh, The Unite union has claimed Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) staff in the North of Scotland are working “dangerously long hours”.
Unite raised concerns after one staff member reported working a 36 hour shift with another claiming to have done a 23 hour shift instead of the standard 12 hours.
It’s common knowledge in the area that the Ambulance Service is under pressure. I myself have experienced it. My mother fell last year and it took an ambulance 3 hours to attend, partly because she wasn’t a priority but also as the ambulance had to travel 40 miles to see her.
In the Highlands and Islands Ambulances are often displaced and end up covering areas they aren’t familiar with.
Unite plans to ballot staff members on whether to take industrial action following the on-going issues in Grampian and the Highlands.
Apology leaves questions on the future
A spokesperson from the Scottish Ambulance Service said:
“We prioritise our services to ensure the sickest, most seriously injured patients, including those with immediately life-threatening conditions, are given the highest priority.
“We apologise to these patients for the delay in our response, we were experiencing an exceptionally high level of demand at the time in the area and these patients were triaged as non immediately life threatening emergencies.
“We regret that these patients waited longer than we would have liked and we will be contacting them directly to apologise.”
The apology raises a worrying question for Ambulance coverage in the Scottish capital. Should there be a major incident, would they be able to cope with the high demand it would create? Part of the issue may be that ambulances are being taken off emergency calls to transfer patients between St John’s Hospital and Edinburgh Sick Kids.
Notwithstanding this, it is clear that the Scottish Government need to look into improving services across Scotland as soon as possible.
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