Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP today said that more needs to be done to help paramedics save lives.
Mr Cole-Hamilton was speaking as new figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats revealed that people suffering life-threatening accidents or illnesses had to wait more than 20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive on 4350 occasions last year.
The target for ambulance response times to category A incidents, the most serious class of emergency call out, is 8 minutes. In 2015/16, the number of category A patients who waited more than 20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive increased by 1459 from the previous year.
In Glasgow, the number of patients facing long waits almost trebled from 80 in 2014/15 to 233 in 2015/16. In Edinburgh, the number almost doubled from 58 patients in 2014/15 to 108 in 2015/16.
Commenting on the figures, Mr Cole-Hamilton said:
“Our Ambulance Service does fantastic, life-saving work in communities around Scotland every day. But I think Ambulance Service staff would be amongst the first to recognise that these figures are hugely concerning.
“When lives are at stake ambulance staff do all they can to reach patients as soon as possible. But these numbers make for difficult reading. Last year, 4350 patients were forced to wait more than 20 minutes for their ambulance to arrive at a life-threatening incident. This is an increase of almost 1500 patients from the previous year.
“Ministers have been warned repeatedly by doctors that paramedics are overstretched and under resourced. These figures show that these concerns are far from scaremongering. The number of seriously ill patients facing waits of more than 20 minutes has increased year on year since 2013.
“The eight minute target for category A incidents is there for good reason. These are hugely serious call outs. Every extra minute that people are waiting for care reduces the likelihood that they will make a full recovery.
“Plans to increase the number of paramedics are a good start but there are fears that taking staff off the road for training could increase pressure in the short-term. We need Ministers to ensure that the ambulance service is getting all the support it needs to close gaps in the service and save lives.”