John Swinney apologises after man dies while waiting for an ambulance
The deputy first minister has apologised to the family of a man who died after waiting five hours for an ambulance.
Richard Brown, 55, died alone on the tenement stairs of his building in Glasgow.
A neighbour had repeatedly called 999 but an ambulance did not arrive until it was too late.
John Swinney, who was standing in at First Minister’s Questions for Nicola Sturgeon as she attends COP26, expressed sympathy to Mr Brown’s family.
He said: “Mr Brown should not have had the experience that he had and I am very sorry that Mr Brown’s family are enduring the added agony that they are having to endure in addition to the loss of Mr Brown.
“An investigation into the circumstances relating to the delay in reaching Mr Brown has been launched and all findings and lessons will be shared with Mr Brown’s family.”
Swinney was answering questions from the opposition leaders about the mounting pressure on the Scottish Ambulance Service and the wider NHS.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the government “simply isn’t doing enough to support our emergency services”.
He added: “This is not just about ambulance staff, but workers across our NHS… Everyone in the NHS are all desperately trying to save lives but they don’t have the resources they need.
“They are crying out for help. Frontline staff have sent out their own 999 to this government. Scotland’s NHS needs more support. This winter is going to be its toughest ever test.”
Swinney insisted there had been “sustained investment” in the ambulance service but pointed to extra pressure piled on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said the government would “resource them to continue that work to overcome enormous burdens of Covid”, adding it required a “whole system solution”.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said these answers “weren’t good enough”, warning there would be more avoidable deaths if a sufficient package of support was not provided.
He also criticised the government for hiding behind Covid, adding: “Covid can’t be the cover. These were pressures existing in the National Health Service even before Covid. Yes, Covid has exacerbated the problems, but let’s not pretend these problems started with Covid.”
Swinney reiterated the government was working to ensure ambulances are operating in an “efficient and effective way”, including funding other areas of health and social care to ensure there were no blockages in A&E departments.
He said that Sarwar was “in denial about the impact of Covid on our NHS”.
Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton highlighted the mental health impact the delays were having on paramedics and other ambulance staff, adding: “Stop blaming the pandemic and accept that his government are letting these vital staff down.”