Performance statistics from the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) highlight the challenges faced in many areas of Aberdeenshire, including Peterhead, Fraserburgh and Mintlaw.
In life-threatening situations last year, some patients in Peterhead and Fraserburgh had to wait more than 25 minutes to be seen by an ambulance – despite the target time being eight minutes.
Meanwhile, some patients in Mintlaw who were in a life-threatening condition had to wait 17 minutes for an ambulance to attend.
Emergency calls to the SAS are categorised purple, red, amber, yellow and green depending on the risk to life of a patient’s condition. Generally, purple calls are for the most serious, like a cardiac arrest or severe difficulty breathing, while red calls deal with the second most serious category and could be for issues like suspected heart attacks, falls from a height, major trauma or stabbings.
In Peterhead last year, ambulance crews attended 79 ‘purple’ calls, with an average response time of 11 minutes 10 seconds. However, some calls took over 23 minutes before an ambulance arrived. Crews also attended 323 ‘red’ calls, with an average response time of 11 minutes 54 seconds, but on occasions the response time was more than 25 minutes.
David Duguid, Conservative MP for Banff and Buchan, said: “These figures are a shocking reflection of the scale of the crisis facing the Scottish Ambulance Service when attending incidents across Buchan. It’s extremely concerning that serious emergency callouts are taking more than 25 minutes in Peterhead and Fraserburgh.
“Heroic ambulance staff and paramedics are continuing to do a fantastic job through this pandemic but they are under-resourced and beyond breaking point.
“The SNP have underfunded our ambulance service for too long. Humza Yousaf should accept the SNP Government’s failings and outline real solutions to support patients and staff.”
Across Scotland and, indeed, Britain, ambulance services have been under severe pressure due to the coronavirus pandemic. Services have faced high levels of demand, while staff shortages have had a further impact.
As a result, waiting times for ambulances in many areas across the country have increased significantly.
In September last year the Scottish Government allocated additional funding of £20 million to the Scottish Ambulance Service to help improve response times, alleviate pressures and improve staff wellbeing.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “The global pandemic has created the most challenging crisis in the history of the NHS. Ambulance services around the UK, as well as the wider NHS, are experiencing unprecedented demand – largely because of Covid-19, but also due to a combination of increasingly complex cases, and exceptionally busy emergency departments.
“The Ambulance Service is the heartbeat of our NHS. It has a unique role in engaging with all parts of the health and social care system across Scotland – 24 hours of every day. It is vital that we ensure it has the support it needs to perform this crucial role.”