Sturgeon's apology to brain cancer victim after ambulance shambles

26 April 2018, 18:12

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon has offered an apology to a woman with brain cancer whose husband had to drive her to hospital after an ambulance failed to turn up promptly.

Margaret Goodman, from Sauchie in Clackmannanshire, is receiving palliative care for the disease and was present in the Holyrood chamber to see her case raised.

Ms Sturgeon also faced renewed calls from opposition parties to sack Health Secretary Shona Robison during First Minister's Questions.

She offered the apology on hearing how palliative care nurses had phoned three times for an ambulance after Ms Goodman suffered "excruciating" pain just before midnight on April 7.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard told the chamber how, after waiting two hours, Ms Goodman's husband Gavin drove her to A&E at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert.

There she faced further waits, not receiving morphine until 3am and not seeing a doctor until 7am.

Mr Leonard said Ms Goodman's experience was "simply unacceptable".

He told the chamber research by his party had revealed that 16,865 emergency 999 ambulances took longer than an hour to arrive on scene in 2017.

He said: "The debate about our NHS is not just about statistics in the end, it is about real lives and real people like Margaret.

"Out in the real world, Scotland's health service staff are being failed.

"Those district nurses, our hospital doctors, those ambulance crews - they are all being failed, failed by your government, and Scotland's patients, they are being failed as well, including people like Margaret.

"How much more failure must people endure, before you finally realise that we need a change in our NHS, starting with a change of your Health Secretary?"

Ms Sturgeon said: "The circumstances that have been outlined by Richard Leonard, yes I would say are unacceptable.

"We expect the highest standards of care for patients across the country and on occasions where that doesn't happen it's very important that lessons are learned and applied for the future.

"If (Ms Goodman) received care that was not of the standard she expected, and from what Richard Leonard has outlined today it certainly appears that that is the case, then of course she deserves and apology and I offer that to her."

Ms Sturgeon said she did not accept Mr Leonard's characterisation of the health service, saying that while staff were working under pressure record amounts of money were being invested and record numbers of staff employed.

She added that the Scottish Ambulance Service had recently implemented a new response model designed to make sure that ambulances get to the most serious cases as quickly as possible.

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie and Labour's Neil Findlay also called for Ms Robison to step down.

Mr Rennie highlighted reports that mothers in Caithness are being put off having children due to concerns over maternity services.

He said: "Campaigners say that parents are now thinking twice about whether to have a family. What a devastating failure of government health policy that is."

Mr Findlay said the health secretary should stand aside in favour of someone who will "get a grip of this disaster in general practice".

Ms Sturgeon said: "The opposition might want to continue to play politics with this, we will continue to focus on the hard work of supporting our national health service and delivering for patients."

She said safety was paramount regarding maternity services and the new GP contract would help address concerns.