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by Louise Wilson
14 December 2023
Shona Robison apologises for long ambulance waits as situatuation branded ‘scandalous’ by Douglas Ross

Shona Robison was in the hot seat at FMQs | Alamy

Shona Robison apologises for long ambulance waits as situatuation branded ‘scandalous’ by Douglas Ross

The deputy first minister has apologised to patients forced to wait at A&E after fresh figures found one in ten ambulances are having to wait outside hospitals for hours.

Shona Robison said the service “continues to experience challenges” and in some cases ambulances were “taking longer than they should”.

She was responding to Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross at First Minister’s Questions, who called the situation “scandalous”.

A freedom of information request submitted by his party revealed one ambulance waited in Ayrshire for over 15 hours outside a hospital.

Ross said these were the “worst turnaround times on record”. He also pointed to broken targets on ambulance response times, with some high priority 999 calls taking over half an hour for an ambulance. The target is six minutes.

Robison, who was standing in for Humza Yousaf due to illness, said: “I would apologise to anyone who has either experienced any waits for an ambulance to reach them or indeed has had to wait too long at A&E.”

She said ambulance response time targets were being met in “most cases” but agreed it was “not acceptable” if people were waiting longer. The median response time for high priority calls is currently seven minutes and 23 seconds.

However, the DFM pointed to investment in the health service to keep people out of hospitals in the first place and an increase in ambulance staff numbers.

She went on to criticise the UK Government for not providing sufficient funding via the block grant, accusing UK ministers of making a “real-terms cut” to health spending.

Ross argued that was “not true” before highlighting staff morale within the ambulance service was “at an all-time low”. He warned staff would considering leaving due to the “unsustainable” situation.

“Systematic problems are preventing frontline staff from giving patients the treatment they deserve,” he added.

Also at FMQs, Labour’s Anas Sarwar raised the issue of homelessness. He said there had been a 30 per cent increase in the number of families at risk of losing their home in recent years and described the government’s mortgage support scheme as a scheme “in name only” as it had not helped anyone in eight years.

Robison pointed to £3bn-worth of support measures going to families, including via the Scottish Child Payment, as part of efforts to help households through the cost-of-living crisis.

Regarding the mortgage scheme, she said government would “continue to look at what more we can do”.

Sarwar replied: “People are losing their homes right now and being forced to go homeless, and the government’s going to continue to ‘look at’ how it’s going to implement that mortgage support scheme. What is the point of having the scheme if it’s not going to support people right now?”

He added there was a “housing emergency” in Scotland, with 15,000 families living in temporary accommodation, 110,000 families on a housing waiting list and a child made homeless every 45 seconds.

Robison said the government “remains wholly committed” to the rapid rehousing scheme and said the government was providing wider support than just mortgage help.

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