Petition raised after patients ‘put at risk’ by ambulance delays

Ambulance delays 'a matter of urgency'

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A petition calling for more ambulance crews to be allocated in mid Argyll has been organised by a group of families affected by delays.

Paula Cameron, Jessica McMullen and Karen Heafey are raising a petition following their own recent experience of ambulance delays and the stories of other local families who have been in touch with them.

Karen, who lives in Ardrishaig, told the Argyllshire Advertiser: ‘My concern is that someone’s going to die. On July 14 my Dad had a massive heart attack and when my mum phoned for an ambulance she was told there wasn’t one available.

‘He was howling in pain; my mum says it’s a sound she’ll never forget. She gave up waiting for an ambulance and asked her neighbour to drive her to the hospital.

‘My mum’s four foot 11 and Dad’s over six foot so it was a huge struggle to get him into the car.’

Karen added that the staff at Mid Argyll hospital were exceptional when they got there, but the problem with the ambulance service didn’t end there.

She said: ‘The hospital staff sent an ECG reading to the Jubilee hospital in Glasgow and they confirmed he was having a massive heart attack. They sent a helicopter for him, but when it arrived there was no ambulance to transfer him up the hill to it.

‘We nearly lost Dad then, but after 15 minutes the helicopter crew realised there was not going to be an ambulance for him so they had to carry Dad out the hospital themselves and put him in an empty ambulance that was sitting there and drive him up to the helicopter.

‘The helicopter paramedic said he was shocked by what had happened and that he would log a complaint.’

Karen’s father, 59-year-old Michael Heafey, had triple bypass surgery and is recovering at home in Ardrishaig.

The petition plan comes as an official call has been made for the governance board of Argyll and Bute’s health and social care partnership (HSCP) to investigate a number of complaints.

Betty Rhodick, the public representative of the HSCP’s Integrated Joint Board, has asked an officer from the board to look into what she calls, ‘this disturbing matter’.

In her email to the IJB she said: ‘I have been hearing disturbing reports that many patients requiring an ambulance are having difficulty.

Ms Rhodick then lists a series of delays  that have been faced by patients and adds: ‘It worries me that the mortality of our patients is being put at risk by the lack of coherent services working together.

‘I do realise that this is an operational matter with the Scottish Ambulance Service, but as this affects the physical and mental wellbeing of staff and patients alike, I would like an officer of the IJB to look into this disturbing matter.

‘I would also request that a paper, re the progress of the investigations, is brought to the Board at their earliest convenience.’

Paula Cameron told the paper that her son, Rhys Chamberlain, lay unconscious on the ground while waiting 45 minutes for an ambulance in June at their home in Ardrishaig after suffering shock caused by a badly broken arm.

‘When the ambulance got to us the crew were amazing and so are all the staff at the hospital. My concern is that there simply aren’t enough crews working at any one time,’ she said.

Mid Argyll Councillor Dougie Philand has contacted the Scottish Ambulance Service’s West of Scotland head Murray McEwan asking him to look at ambulance provision in mid Argyll as ‘a matter of urgency’.

In his email Mr Philand said: ‘I’m contacting you again as a result of a number of incidents that have been reported to me over the last couple of weeks which are of deep concern to both me and the local community.

‘I have to say there is absolutely no criticism of the staff locally who go above and beyond their duty to service our local community and we are really grateful for their assistance.

‘What I’m getting at here is the system that is currently in place. So far we in Mid Argyll have been lucky that nothing serious has happened to our residents, but if the system you have is going to continue then something more serious will happen. As a matter of urgency could I ask that you look at this please.’

A spokesperson for the Scottish Ambulance Service told the Argyllshire Advertiser: ‘The Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) is a national service and ambulances are not restricted by geographical area. We will always dispatch the closest, most appropriate response to all emergency calls and have a wide range of resources which can be deployed depending on the nature of the incident and the condition of the patient.

‘Managing the demand on the ambulance service, especially during a pandemic, is very challenging and we prioritise our responses and our ambulance resources according to clinical need. We are continuing to invest in new ambulance staff, new ambulances and the latest equipment across the country and in the past year, we have reduced on call working in Oban and are providing the highest level of cover the area has ever had.