AN INVESTIGATION is underway after a frail pensioner found collapsed at his home in Glasgow died following a 40 hour wait for an ambulance.

The family of Gerard Brown, 65, say they have been told that the delay cost the former engineer his life, with Mr Brown’s GP - who repeatedly warned 999 call handlers that his status was critical - branding the current crisis engulfing the ambulance service as “third world medicine”.

The case has been referred to the Procurator Fiscal and the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

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It comes as Health Secretary Humza Yousaf came under fire for urging the public to “think twice” before calling an ambulance except in “absolutely critical” situations amid unprecedented demand.

Mr Brown, a cancer survivor who weighed just six stone and had a history of alcohol-related health problems, was found by his son’s partner on the floor of his flat in Dumbreck, Glasgow last Monday with cuts to his back and arms from a fall.

The father-of-three, who was unable to get up to unlock his door, was dangerously dehydrated and requiring oxygen treatment.

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The building’s concierge gained access to the property and called for an ambulance at 11am, with Mr Brown’s family told they faced a 10-hour wait.

In the end, paramedics arrived around 3am on Wednesday, by which time Mr Brown had passed away.

“They pronounced that he was only just dead because he still had warmth in his body,” said his son, Dylan Brown, describing the delay as “just horrific”.

He added: “In this day and age, it should not be happening. I know with Covid people are busy and the NHS is struggling, but that’s unacceptable and we just don’t want it happening to another family.

“The worst thing about it is that [my father’s GP] Dr O’Neill said to me ‘Dylan, I can assure you that if they’d got to him your Dad would still be here’. That’s the hardest part to accept.”

HeraldScotland: Ambulances have been 'stacking' outside the QEUH in Glasgow while they wait to discharge patients because A&E departments are full. The situation is understood to be contributing to long waits for other patients waiting for ambulancesAmbulances have been 'stacking' outside the QEUH in Glasgow while they wait to discharge patients because A&E departments are full. The situation is understood to be contributing to long waits for other patients waiting for ambulances

Mr Brown said his mother had repeatedly dialled emergency services asking them to hurry, and he had also offered to drive his father to hospital instead on the Tuesday - but he had refused.

Speaking to the Herald, Dr Patrick O’Neill, a partner at Cardonald Medical Practice, said he knew Mr Brown as a patient “very well” and realised he needed urgent hospital attention.

Dr O’Neill said he was first made aware of Mr Brown’s condition by his ex-wife on Monday morning, after she telephoned the practice to let them know that the family were waiting for an ambulance.

He said: "Then at 9am on Tuesday we get a phonecall from his ex-wife to say ‘listen, he’s still in the house’. I was like ‘you are kidding me?’.

"I got on the phone to the ambulance service at 9.15am and I said ‘this man is going to be found dead' - and I used that language, because I knew the situation he was in."

When an ambulance failed to arrive within two hours, the GP called again, but was finally contacted by police on Wednesday morning to inform him that Mr Brown had died.

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Dr O'Neill added: "It wasn’t even an isolated case. Two days later I had a woman - an immuno-suppressed asthmatic - wait 12 hours for an ambulance.

"She couldn’t breathe and rang me at 9am in the morning, having called for an ambulance at 11pm the night before.

"I had to phone the ambulance service again and said ‘look, this woman is going to die if you don’t get out there’. In fairness, they then got to her and she was admitted to the [Queen Elizabeth hospital] with Covid pneumonia - but she was lucky to have survived.

“It’s happening across the board and it’s not their fault - it’s shortages - but you assume when you put in a 999 call that these people are going to be picked up."

HeraldScotland: Daily hospital admissions for Covid have been rising sharply since mid-August at the same time as patients arriving at A&E with chronic and complex conditions which have worsened during the pandemic has also been increasingDaily hospital admissions for Covid have been rising sharply since mid-August at the same time as patients arriving at A&E with chronic and complex conditions which have worsened during the pandemic has also been increasing

Dr O'Neill said the current pressures facing the system are "exceptional". 

He added: "There was the odd time [in the past] that you might get a call from a family who’d been waiting four or five hours for an ambulance and we’d have got involved at that stage, but it was nothing like this.

"We’ve come to the point now where if people are mobile we’re saying to the family ‘just lift them into a car and get them to casualty’ - forget about the ambulance, they don’t exist. This is third world medicine.”

In a statement, the Crown Office confirmed that the Procurator Fiscal has received a report "in connection with the death of a 65-year-old man on 8 September 2021 in Glasgow".

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It added: "The investigation into the death, under the direction of Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit (SFIU), is ongoing and the family will continue to be kept updated in relation to any significant developments."

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) said: "We have started an investigation into the circumstances relating to the delay in reaching Mr Brown and will be in contact with Mr Brown’s family directly to apologise for the delay in response and pass on our sincere condolences.

"We are really sorry for their loss and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time. All findings and lessons learned will be shared with Mr Brown’s family as part of the investigation process.”

It comes after SAS boss Pauline Cowie apologised over waiting times last week, saying the service has faced a "huge increase" in Covid and non-Covid callouts.

Call handlers have been dealing with 10,000 more 999 calls a month compared to last summer.

HeraldScotland: Health Secretary Humza YousafHealth Secretary Humza Yousaf

Yesterday, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf told the BBC that the NHS faces an "extraordinarily difficult winter" due to Covid, a resurgence in flu, and surges in A&E attendance.

He agreed people should "think twice" and only call 999 if it is "absolutely critical", but stressed that they should "of course" still call if it is and that an ambulance "will get to you as quickly as they possibly can".

Labour's Jackie Baillie accused Mr Yousaf of "shaming Scots who are fearing for their health", while Tory health spokesman Sandesh Gulhane branded the comments "reckless messaging [that] could put lives at risk".