Military assistance is being considered to help tackle ambulance waiting times in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.
The First Minister made the announcement as she apologised “unreservedly” to anyone who has suffered, or is suffering, from “unacceptably long waits”.
It comes after it was reported that a 65-year-old pensioner died having waited for 40 hours on an ambulance after collapsing at his home in Glasgow.
The case was raised by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross during FMQs at Holyrood on Thursday.
“Last week, I raised the crisis in Scotland’s ambulance service,” Ross told MSPs.
“I said that the scandalous waiting times could cost people’s lives.
“This morning, we all read in shock and horror about 65-year-old Gerard Brown, who died after a fall after a 40-hour wait for an ambulance.
“When the ambulance reached him, all they could do was pronounce him as dead. His body was still warm.
“His son, Dylan, said the hardest part to accept was that his father’s GP had told him that if they got to him, ‘your dad would still be here’.
“Just think about that – being told if they got to him, ‘your day would still be here’.”
He continued: “So what does the First Minister have to say to ambulance crews who turn up to try and save people’s lives, only to pronounce them as dead?
“What does the First Minister have to say to Gerard Brown’s GP, who said, ‘this is third-world medicine’?
“And what does the First Minister have to say to Dylan Brown, who is grieving the death of his father who should still be alive?”
The First Minister said it is not acceptable that some people are not receiving the standard of service that they should be.
“Well, firstly, my condolences are with Mr Brown,” Sturgeon responded.
“The individual cases that are reported in the media this morning obviously require to be fully and properly investigated and it would not be right for me to pre-empt those investigations.
“But, what is reported is unacceptable and I am in no doubt about that.”
She added: “Our ambulance service is working under acute pressure right now, largely due to Covid.
“I want to take the opportunity to thank our paramedics and technicians for the working they are doing in such difficult circumstances.
“While they are responding heroically to these challenges, I recognise that some people are not getting the standard of service that they should be getting, or indeed the standard of service that the Scottish Ambulance Service wants to deliver.
“That is not acceptable and I apologise unreservedly to anyone who has suffered, or who is suffering unacceptably long waits.”
The First Minister explained that military assistance is already being provided to ambulance services in England, as she set out the action being taken to tackle waiting times.
She continued: “A range of actions have already been taken to address these challenges, for example, additional funding to support new recruitment.
“A number of additional actions are currently under active consideration, I’m happy to summarise these in further exhanges.
“But, I can confirm now that this includes consideration of seeking targeted military assistance to help deal with short-term pressure points.
“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.
“I will be meeting personally with the Scottish Ambulance Service to assess their progress on all of the actions that are being considered, and the health secretary (Humza Yousaf) will be making a statement to Parliament next week.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar hit out at the SNP over the waiting times being experienced.
“This is an avoidable human tragedy on a heart-breaking scale,” he said.
“Pandemic or no pandemic, there’s a simple truth: no-one should be left to die on the floor while waiting 40 hours for an ambulance.
“Our NHS staff, paramedics, and call-handlers are being failed too.
“They’re the ones having to answer those heart-breaking calls and tell patients there won’t be an ambulance coming any time soon.
“They’re the ones having to turn up at homes to distressing scenes and are expected to explain the SNP government’s failures.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the call for military assistance is evidence of a government which has done “too little, too late”.
“The ambulance service have been failed by this government,” he told the Scottish Parliament.
“This isn’t just the pandemic. They simply don’t have the resource to prioritise these cases.
“Calling in the army is evidence of a government that has done too little, too late.”