Cole-Hamilton to call for independent inquiry into ambulance waiting-times 'crisis'
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton is to use his first speech since succeeding Willie Rennie in August to call for an independent inquiry into problems in the ambulance service.
When he addresses the Scottish party’s virtual autumn conference this afternoon, Cole-Hamilton will raise the case of retired nurse Catherine Whyte - who waited eight hours for an ambulance while suffering from fractured feet, a fractured pelvis and delirium - as evidence of what opposition parties are calling a crisis in the service.
“None of this is the fault of the heroic paramedics, technicians or call handlers,” he will say. “It’s the fault of the ministers who palmed off their warnings of shortages for years. Because the impact of 14 years of mismanagement can be seen right there, in Catherine Whyte’s kitchen.
“While the health secretary dances around scrutiny, berating anyone who dares to hold him and his government to account, people are hurting, people are dying.
“That is why Scottish Liberal Democrats are pushing for an independent inquiry into all unnecessary deaths connected to the ambulance waiting times crisis, with the findings published.
“And the government must start weekly reporting of ambulance waiting times. They are a symptom of an overrun and understaffed healthcare service, ignored for too long by a government with other priorities.”
Last month First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called in the army to help keep the ambulance service running after a growing number of reports of people waiting hours for a response.
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has repeatedly used First Minister's Questions to push Sturgeon to admit the service is in crisis. She has gone as far as to say it is facing “crisis conditions”.
In addition to calling in the army, the government has announced funding for the recruitment of further paramedics and technicians and earlier this week health secretary Humza Yousaf announced a £300m funding package to tide health and social care services over the winter months.
That package is focused largely on moving people out of hospitals and into other forms of care, which is expected to ease some of the pressure on the ambulance service by freeing up space so patients can be admitted to hospital more quickly.