Aberdeen grapples with escalating ambulance turnaround crisis in Scotland

MSP Tess White at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary

ABERDEEN Royal Infirmary experienced Scotland’s longest ambulance turnaround times in 2023, waiting up to 18 hours in January. The crisis is hitting rural areas the hardest.

Over the past year, medics at ARI faced the longest waits, with some waiting up to 18 hours in January 2023. Tess White, MSP and Scottish Conservative shadow public health minister, voices concern, stating, “The issue of ambulance stacking is very much in the public eye, and pictures of queuing ambulances are upsetting for the public, medical staff, and the health board.”

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According to information obtained by the Scottish Conservatives, ambulance services are strained across the board, with some hospitals experiencing staggering waits. For instance, Dr Gray’s in Elgin reported the longest wait of 612 minutes, Perth Royal Infirmary faced waits of 297 minutes, and Kirkcaldy’s Victoria Hospital encountered delays of 574 minutes. White emphasises the gravity of the situation, saying, “It is prevalent across Scotland, not just in Aberdeen or any one place, but it’s definitely compounded by the rural nature of some areas. We are in a dark period.”

Opposition MSPs have labelled the situation a “dark period,” underscoring the severity of the challenges faced by the healthcare system. The crisis has prompted questions about the SNP government’s ability to handle the growing emergency. White demands answers, stating, “We need to hear from Humza Yousaf and the SNP Scottish Government about how they will get a grip of this growing crisis.”

Deputy First Minister Shona Robison issued an apology for the delays in ambulance turnaround times, acknowledging that some ambulances are taking longer than they should to clear hospital entrances. Robison’s apology reflects the government’s recognition of the problem and its impact on patients awaiting emergency care. She states, “I apologise to anyone who has either experienced any waits for an ambulance to reach them.”

In response to the escalating crisis, the Scottish Government outlined several principles aimed at reducing handover times at hospital entrances. A government spokesperson states, “This is an important piece of work that will reduce the pressure on hospital and ambulance services – particularly during winter – and get patients the treatment they need quicker.” The spokesperson also highlights the collaborative nature of the government’s approach, involving health boards and implementing strategies to improve patient flow and reduce delays.

As the crisis deepens, there is a pressing need for transparency and clear communication from Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and the SNP Scottish Government regarding their plans to address the growing challenges in ambulance turnaround times. This includes not only acknowledging the issue but also providing tangible solutions and support for NHS staff on the frontline. White emphasises the vital role of ambulance crews, stating, “Ambulance crews constitute a vital component of our NHS and, akin to other frontline sectors, bear the brunt of poor workforce planning under the SNP Scottish Government.”

The ambulance turnaround crisis in Scotland, exemplified by the prolonged waits at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, highlights systemic challenges that demand immediate attention and comprehensive solutions. The situation’s impact on rural areas and the strain on healthcare professionals necessitate a coordinated response from the government to address both immediate concerns and the broader issues affecting the healthcare system.

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