Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has today urged the Health Secretary to “step up his game” and help restore the public faith in the ambulance service, as Scottish Liberal Democrat research unveiled that in the last five years emergency service calls cancelled due to patients making their own way to hospital have increased by almost 700%.
Data obtained from the Scottish Ambulance Service via Freedom of Information shows that in 2021/22 5,796 calls relating to non-attended incidents were classified as “cancelled” due to patients choosing to make their own way to hospitals up from just 753 occasions in 2016/17, a rise of 670%.
For attended incidents, the number of calls stopped due to patients choosing to make their own way to hospitals rose from 405 in 2016/17 to 2,330 in 2021/22, a rise of 475%.
Calls to clinical support desks show similar figures, with calls relating to non-attended incidents rising from 2,215 in 2016/17 to 6,924 in 2021/22 and calls relating to attended incidents rising from 34 in 2016/17 to 113 in 2021/22.
Commenting on the figures, Mr Cole-Hamilton said:
“People want to know that when they call the emergency services there is an ambulance available should they or their family need it.
“These figures suggest that more and more people may be having to take themselves to the hospital because emergency care simply isn’t there.
“While we can only hope those thousands of patients had only very minor injuries that required very little assistance, we do not know if the choice to make their own way to the hospital was merely a preference or a necessity.
“If thousands of people are having to take a taxi to the A&E rather than wait at home in pain for an ambulance that may or may not come then that is an indictment of the SNP’s handling of emergency care.
“The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has suggested that waits for emergency care may have led to hundreds of unnecessary deaths.
“The Health Secretary must step up his game and provide new funds. The SNP should focus their energy and resources on helping the ambulance service provide the best possible service rather than another divisive referendum.
"Every Scottish Liberal Democrat councillor elected on May 5th will be another voice standing up for local communities and the health services that they rely on."