Humiliated Sturgeon forced to beg British Army to help bail out Scottish ambulance crisis

Nicola Sturgeon urges Scots to get coronavirus jabs

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A humiliated First Minister initially told MSPs she was “considering” asking the UK Government for “targeted military assistance” only to later disclose she would “finalise” a formal aid request. It came amid a fierce backlash after pensioner Gerard Brown, 65, was found dead in his Glasgow home when it took 40 hours for an ambulance to arrive.

Mr Brown’s GP, Dr Partick O’Neill said that he had repeatedly contacted the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) to warn them his patient’s life was at risk .

Dr O’Neill warned that Scots were being offered a “third world” service.

At Holyrood yesterday Ms Sturgeon was also confronted by the plight of 86-year-old Lillian Briggs who lay in agony for eight hours on her kitchen floor with a broken hip.

Opposition leaders rounded on the SNP leader just a day after her Health Secretary Humza Yousaf urged people to “think twice” before calling 999 for an ambulance.

The Daily Express understands the her nationalist government will ask for soldiers to drive the emergency response vehicles with 200 troops requested overall to help with the crisis. 

She has already called for more than 100 soldiers who will take over the running of mobile Covid testing currently crewed by SAS workers, thereby allowing them to return to other duties.

Whitehall sources said Scottish Secretary Alister Jack received a formal request for help on Wednesday – more than a week after Ms Sturgeon came under fire for average ambulance waiting times hitting six hours.

During her weekly question session Ms Sturgeon apologised “unreservedly” to those waiting too long for an ambulance, with several other reports emerging of critically ill Scots waiting several hours at home.

However, opponents accused Ms Sturgeon of a lack of urgency after she suggested asking the Army for help was only an option under consideration and appeared reluctant to admit that the service was in crisis.

She also defended Ms Yousaf arguing the ambulance service was “experiencing probably the most challenging combination of circumstances that our health service has faced since its establishment” due to the pandemic.

Ms Sturgeon said the waiting times for some patients were “not acceptable” adding: “I apologise unreservedly to anyone that has suffered or is suffering unacceptably long waits.

“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… 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.”

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Ms Sturgeon later said she was actively considering “the detail” of a request to the military which was “being prepared right now.”

She added: “I will go back to my office after the First Minister’s questions to finalise the details of the request for military assistance so that that can be submitted as soon as possible.

“We will also finalise the other additional actions that we are taking, and which are in addition to those that we have already taken.”

An investigation is under way into the case of Mr Brown, a father-of-three and cancer survivor, with the case referred to the Procurator Fiscal and the public services ombudsman.

His family said he was found by his son’s partner on the floor of his Glasgow flat on Monday with injuries following a fall.

He was unable to get up to unlock his door, with his building’s concierge eventually gaining access and calling an ambulance at 11am.

It did not arrive until 3am on Wednesday, by which time he had passed away.

“They pronounced that he was only just dead because he still had warmth in his body,” Mr Brown’s son, Dylan, said.

“In this day and age, it should not be happening. I know with Covid people are busy and the NHS is struggling, but that’s unacceptable and we just don’t want it happening to another family.”

Dr O’Neill, a partner at Cardonald Medical Practice, told The Herald newspaper he was first made aware of Mr Brown’s condition by his ex-wife on Monday morning, after she telephoned the practice to let it know that the family was waiting for an ambulance.

He said: “Then at 9am on Tuesday, we get a phone call from his ex-wife to say, ‘listen, he’s still in the house’. I was like, ‘you are kidding me?’.

Douglas Ross points out ambulance crisis in Scotland

“I got on the phone to the ambulance service at 9.15am and I said ‘this man is going to be found dead’ – and I used that language, because I knew the situation he was in.”

He said he called again two hours later when the ambulance had still not arrived, but was then contacted by police on Wednesday who said Mr Brown had died.

He added: “We’ve come to the point now where if people are mobile we’re saying to the family ‘just lift them into a car and get them to casualty’ – forget about the ambulance, they don’t exist. This is third-world medicine.”

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said the ambulance service was “in crisis”, and said cases like that of Mr Brown “shouldn’t be happening in Scotland in 2021”.

He challenged Mr Yousaf to withdraw his comments regarding people calling an ambulance and later added: “These heartbreaking stories of people dying and suffering in agony while waiting for an ambulance must be a wake-up call to the SNP Government.

“Systemic failures are leaving ambulance crews to turn up and pronounce people dead, instead of having a chance of saving a life.

“For two weeks in a row, Nicola Sturgeon has been in denial that our NHS is in crisis. Admitting the scale of the problem is essential to tackling it.”

Labour leader Anas Sarwar said “urgent action needs to happen today, tomorrow, the day after”,  and criticised the government’s plan for another Holyrood update to be given on Tuesday next week.

Mr Sarwar accused Ms Sturgeon of using the pandemic as a “cover” for “government failings” in tackling existing health service issues, and said: “You want to wait a week for a statement and then actions to follow that, you want to consider options about what happens with the British Army.

“How many more Gerard Browns need to happen in the next week before you take urgent action?”

Of the request to the UK Government for help, Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie, said: This action represents the real scale of the crisis that has hit Scotland’s ambulance crisis – created and aggravated by the total failure of the SNP Government. I welcome the life saving intervention of our troops, but questions must be asked about why this action was necessary.”

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Calling in the Army is evidence of a Government that has done too little too late.”

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