Fife woman, 80, in five-hour wait for ambulance after fall sparks review call

A Fife woman in her 80s had to wait five hours for an ambulance after a fall, an MSP has claimed. Alex Rowley says services across the Kingdom are operating “beyond stretching point.”
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He highlighted the case of the old woman as he wrote to Neil Gray MSP, the Scottish Government’s new Health Secretary urging him to review ambulance services in the region. Mr Rowley, MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said the situation was worrying and must be addressed.

But his claims that ambulances were lined up waiting at Victoria Hospital because of staff coffee breaks were dismissed as “inaccurate” by NHS Fife and “entirely misrepresented” the discussion that took place between the politician and health bosses recently.

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Mr Rowley said, “My constituent in her 80s with underlying health issues fell and was in serious pain. An ambulance was called and repeated calls were made to the ambulance service and the hospital, but the ambulance did not arrive until five hours later at one o clock in the morning.

Alex Rowley said services in Fife were beyond stretching point (Pic: John Devlin/TSPL)Alex Rowley said services in Fife were beyond stretching point (Pic: John Devlin/TSPL)
Alex Rowley said services in Fife were beyond stretching point (Pic: John Devlin/TSPL)

He went on; “There is a trend of ambulances being lined up at the hospital waiting to get patients in whilst people wait hours and hours when in need.”

Mr Rowley said concern over delays in ambulance and waiting times at hospitals was raised directly with Carol Potter, chief executive of NHS Fife at a recent meeting with politicians.

“The chief executive suggested this was down to ambulance staff taking a coffee break when at the hospital and this was why there lots of ambulances outside the hospital. I challenged this view as being incorrect and I have once again raised the issue direct with NHS Fife which needs to get on top of the admissions issues causing much of the delays.

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“I want to see a review of ambulance capacity in Fife as I am also told we have ambulances having to travel from much farther afield to cover and this also leads to greater delays getting to those who are in need of the service.”

A spokesperson for NHS Fife said: “Ambulance waiting times in Fife were discussed in depth at a meeting between the NHS Fife chief executive and local MPs and MSPs in December 2023, which Mr Rowley attended. His suggestion that the chief executive attributed ambulance waiting times at our hospitals solely to staff having a coffee break is inaccurate and entirely misrepresents the discussion that took place.

“During the meeting Mrs Potter set out in detail the various reasons why ambulances may be parked outside Victoria Hospital. These included the transfer of patients to wards across the hospital, to restock supplies or in periods of particularly high demand, patients may wait within ambulances with trained paramedic staff before being transferred to our Accident and Emergency. Mrs Potter also referenced a recently created staff area near the ambulance drop-off point to enable hard-working ambulance staff to have a well-earned break.

“We recognise that ambulance staff work incredibly hard, often in very challenging conditions to provide the best care for patients. The staff working in our hospitals are working equally hard to minimise waits and ensure ambulance turnaround times are as short as possible.”

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Mr Rowley said the Sottish Government and health bosses must address the concerns raised and “ensure that the ambulance cover in Fife is at a level that can respond when people are in desperate need of medical support.”