End to ambulance waits in Scotland

GPs no longer face long delays when making an urgent request for an ambulance following an agreement between Scottish GPC (SGPC) and the Scottish Ambulance Services (SAS).

GPs had complained their calls were being deprioritised when they called for an ambulance for their patients.

Dr Bob Mack, from Dumfries and Galloway, told the Scottish LMCs conference in Clydebank last month that a request from a GP should not be over-ridden by an ambulance service call-handler who believes the patient is in a ‘place of safety’.

‘Our record is four and a half hours for a one-hour urgent request. Apart from the clinical hazard to the patient this causes, it also causes great worry to the family,’ he added.

Joint deputy chairman of SGPC Dr Andrew Buist said: ‘A lot of those patients are as sick as some of those using 999 and GPs know that.’

But a system which came into effect on 1 May created new categories for GPs so they can define the clinical need of their patients.

There is the option of GPs requesting an ambulance within one, two, three or four hours, or over four hours.

Dr Buist said the system would be monitored to ensure that it worked effectively.

‘We will audit it very closely and meet SAS in six months to make sure that it has kept those promises,’ he said.

GPs expressed concern that SAS was insufficiently resourced. Fife GP Dr Jim Alcock said he waited 10 minutes for someone to answer his 999 call when he was dealing with a patient vomiting blood.

Dr Brian Fitzsimons, a GP who does British Association for Immediate Care (BASIC) work in the Highlands, added that SAS was struggling to meet the demand for out-of-hours care.

An SAS spokesman said after the conference: ‘The agreement builds in a greater degree of flexibility which allows GPs to request transport in a timescale appropriate to their patient’s condition, which means that those who need to get to hospital quicker will do so.’

Do you face long waits when requesting ambulances?

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