G R Direct - Free Dishwasher OfferG R Direct - Free Dishwasher OfferG R Direct - Free Dishwasher OfferG R Direct - Free Dishwasher OfferG R Direct - Free Dishwasher Offer
Thursday 25 July 2024
 13.5°C   SSE Moderate Breeze
Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Emergency services / Pensioner who collapsed at Tesco had to wait 90 minutes for ambulance to arrive

Councillor Allison Duncan reiterates his call for a local emergency call centre

The response times of the ambulance service in Shetland has come under renewed attack.

A LOCAL campaigner has said a recent incident at the Tesco supermarket in Lerwick when a pensioner had to lie on the cold stone floor waiting for an ambulance for almost an hour and a half is further evidence of the urgent need for a Shetland-based emergency services control room.

Councillor Allison (Flea) Duncan said he fears that someone will lose their life before the centralisation of ambulance, fire and police control rooms has been replaced with an a system that more appropriately serves the needs of a rural community such as Shetland.

Customers and the supermarket’s own first-aiders rushed to the help of the 78-year old widow from Lerwick, who asked not to be named, when she suffered a blackout while queuing for the tills last Friday and collapsed on to the floor, banging her head in the process.

Claire Leask, from Scalloway, who was waiting in the same queue, was one of the first to react. She said: “I could see she wasn’t well and was going to be sick, so I put her into the recovery position, and then she was sick.

“It was me who phoned the ambulance, I made the initial call at 12.18pm. I got through and they took down all the information and said I would get a call back, but there was no call back, so I phoned again 15 minutes later.

“The Tesco manager also called the ambulance a few times and then called the local hospital in the hope to speed things up.”

Eventually Leask got a call back from a Glasgow-based ambulance service control room at 1.14pm – almost exactly an hour after the initial call had been made.

Become a supporter of Shetland News


About ten minutes later the ambulance arrived and the casualty was taken to the Gilbert Bain Hospital, where she was kept for two days.

“I am utterly appalled and disgusted that it took so long, especially with the ambulance station right next door and the local hospital a stone throw away,” Leask said.

“The local ambulance didn’t know anything about this emergency. There seems to be a communication problem within the ambulance service and that needs to be highlighted.”

It was the second known case within a month where a patient had to wait for an unreasonably long time for an ambulance to arrive.

Speaking to Shetland News on Monday, the pensioner said she was lucky in that she hadn’t suffered a heart attack or a stroke when collapsing in the Tesco queue, as otherwise things could have been far more serious.

She said she was feeling “chirpy” again after two days in hospital where she was treated for low blood pressure and dehydration.

She said she was grateful for all the help she had received and wanted to thank everybody who came to her help.

“It was so embarrassing because it happened in the aisle all customers came to in order to get directed to the till,” she said.

“Everybody was just fantastic, the manager and the public. If it hadn’t been for the manager phoning the Gilbert Bain I might still be lying on the floor there.”

However, the NHS Shetland said it was not the hospital’s role to speed up ambulance call-outs, as crews respond to incidents as prioritised by the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS).

A spokesperson for the SAS said managing the demand on the ambulance service could be very challenging, especially during winter and the current pandemic.

“We prioritise our responses and our ambulance resources according to clinical need, so that our most poorly patients receive the most urgent response,” the spokesperson said.

“We also have a range of responses for calls where no immediately life threatening symptoms have been identified and this includes arranging for a more in-depth clinical assessment of the patient.

“In this case, once assessed the call was upgraded and an ambulance dispatched.

“We will be contacting the patient in the coming days directly to apologise for the delay and to make sure she is recovering well.”

Shetland south councillor Allison (Flea) Duncan. Photo: SIC

Councillor Duncan said he wanted to be absolutely clear that his campaign for a Shetland-based control centre was in no way criticising the professionalism of the local emergency services.

“I am not getting at the ambulance service at all,” he said. “As soon as they got the call they handled the job professionally.

“It’s the control centre where the failure is – and it is not good enough.

“If this continues, then it is a matter of time that someone loses their life. And that is all the more reason why I continue to fight for our own emergency services control centre here in Shetland.”

Chairman of the local safety and resilience board councillor Alastair Cooper said the recent performance of the ambulance control room was not good enough and needed to be addressed.

“There is a continued issue with the control rooms and it needs to be sorted out because you had a heart condition or suffered a stroke waiting for an hour is a long time. It is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.”

He added: “I think we need to do more to ensure that the control rooms are operating effectively for our community.

“The concept of a control room being located in Shetland for all the emergency service is something I would support, but I do recognise that it would take a long time to achieve given the way the emergency services are currently organised.”

In November, an elderly lady from Sandwick had to wait four hours for an ambulance to arrive after suffering a broken pelvis after the original call for an ambulance had been directed to Edinburgh rather than the northern division.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.

Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.

Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has  over 600 supporters  who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.

Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -

  • Bring you the headlines as they happen;
  • Stay editorially independent;
  • Give a voice to the community;
  • Grow site traffic further;
  • Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.

If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.



Subscribe to a selection of different newsletters from Shetland News, varying from breaking news delivered on the minute, to a weekly round-up of the opinion posts. All delivered straight to your inbox.

Daily Briefing Newsletter Weekly Highlights Newsletter Opinion Newsletter Life in Shetland Newsletter

JavaScript Required

We're sorry, but Shetland News isn't fully functional without JavaScript enabled.
Head over to the help page for instructions on how to enable JavaScript on your browser.

Your Privacy

We use cookies on our site to improve your experience.
By using our service, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Browser is out-of-date

Shetland News isn't fully functional with this version of .
Head over to the help page for instructions on updating your browser for more security, improved speed and the best overall experience on this site.

Interested in Notifications?

Get notifications from Shetland News for important and breaking news.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

We're committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to impartial, open and quality local journalism that benefits all residents.

By supporting Shetland News, you play a vital role in ensuring we remain a pivotal resource in supporting the community.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.