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‘My 7-hour wait at A&E with critical patient’: Ambulance wait times in Inverness put strain on healthcare workers

By Annabelle Gauntlett

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Ambulance technician, Amber Connor waited over 7-hours with a patient outside Raigmore's A&E.
Ambulance technician, Amber Connor waited over 7-hours with a patient outside Raigmore's A&E.

The Inverness ambulance service endures dire wait times on a daily basis outside Raigmore Hospital as an influx of patient care and lack of healthcare professionals have put a major strain on the NHS.

Every day a total of three ambulances are dispatched from the Inverness ambulance station to help save the lives of people across the city. However, at night the number of vehicles reduces to two, in addition to the emergency mental health vehicle.

Currently, ambulances and staff are being used to wait outside of Raigmore Hospital with patients for hours due to the ‘lack of staff and size of the hospital’, rather than attending more patients in need of their assistance.

Inverness ambulance technician Amber Connor said: “My longest wait time outside A&E and general assessment is seven-and-a-half hours.

“The seven-and-a-half hours outside A&E was with a more serious patient, but unfortunately they just didn’t have the space to take us in and I think it is seen that an ambulance is a place of safety for a patient, where as if that patient had maybe self presented they would have been seen a lot quicker.

“It was really, really hard and it was during a night shift, making it hard on the patient as an ambulance is not made for comfort. An ambulance is very much made for scoop and go and it is not made for sitting outside the hospital for hours on end.

“The patient then gets very uncomfortable, very agitated and there’s nothing we can do to help except apologise and wait.

“It’s absolutely not the hospital's fault, there’s just too many people needing us and too many people needing care.”

A queue of ambulances outside Raigmore.
A queue of ambulances outside Raigmore.

Inverness paramedic Heather Mackintosh said: “The waiting times at the hospital are very challenging. The staff in the hospital are amazing, they are so helpful and try to help us alleviate any symptoms the patient has, but I feel personally that the hospital is too small and there’s not enough staff, which impacts on the staff currently trying to help.

“I think it is a combination of social care and not having enough people in the community.”

The job of a paramedic is gruelling enough without the added pressure of maintaining a patient's health, who is most likely in a critical condition, for hours due to hospital wait times.

When talking about the hardest part of the job, Heather said: “Everyday is different, it’s a very diverse job so the difficulties change all the time, but today the hardest part of the job was sitting outside of the hospital. It is very frustrating.

“Helping people get into hospital and helping the next patient is easy, but the hardest part is waiting.”

Last week the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) dealt with 15,890 unscheduled care incidents, of these 13,833 were emergency incidents. Of the total unscheduled care incidents, 12,464 received an on scene attendance by SAS crews. Of these attended unscheduled care incidents, 10,737 were emergency incidents.

When talking about what she feels needs to happen to fix these issues, Amber said: “I think Raigmore Hospital needs to be bigger for the size of Inverness now. It hasn’t got the capacity to hold the amount of people that are living in Inverness because it is an ever-growing city and the fastest growing city and the hospital is not big enough.”

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