If you find yourself in the unfortunate position that calling 999 for an ambulance is necessary, you dearly hope that it arrives in the blink of an eye.

Of course, that expectation doesn’t match the practicality of one arriving, but measuring that time in minutes rather than hours, or days, is the hope. However, it emerged recently that the average wait for an ambulance in Scotland had reached six hours. That is a desperately long wait for help.

If you think how much someone’s condition might deteriorate over the course of an hour, or two, or six, particularly if they are older, frail, or living alone without support nearby, it paints a really desperate picture.

This is unacceptable and extremely dangerous, not to mention distressing for those making and receiving calls. The tragic death of 65-year-old Gerard Brown this week following an unfathomable 40 hour wait for an ambulance illustrates precisely what is at risk if this situation is not brought under control as a matter of urgency.

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I cannot imagine how Mr Brown’s family and loved ones are feeling in the wake of this devastating loss, which will be even harder to come to terms with knowing that more urgent treatment may well have saved his life.

This tragic case has clearly set alarm bells ringing within the Scottish Government, with the First Minister announcing that the government is seeking targeted military assistance to alleviate pressure on the ambulance service. However, there is the big question of why it has taken loss of life and news on the front pages to bring about such urgent action.

At Age Scotland, we want to help older people be as well as they can be, and key to this work is ensuring services are robust and accessible enough to meet their needs both now and in the future. In a crisis and in normal times.

Earlier this year we consulted with older people, as part of some joint work with the Scottish Ambulance Service, about their expectations when calling 999 for an ambulance – particularly following a fall.

Their overwhelming view was how important it is to receive reassurance from the ambulance service, particularly as they would not call unless they thought their situation was serious enough to need urgent attention.

Although alternative means of community support in an emergency were discussed, people told us that unless there was a direct line to access this support and a guarantee they would be responsive, their immediate instinct would always be to call 999 and request an ambulance.

Unfortunately, this much-needed reassurance is harder to get due to the immense pressure services are under, and the time it takes an ambulance to arrive has become akin to a roll of the dice.

There is no doubt that the NHS, emergency services and social care are in the midst of a perfect storm - hospitals are operating close to full capacity, A&E waiting times are through the roof and delayed discharge figures are rising rapidly.

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This is a truly worrisome situation to be in and demonstrates the lasting and volatile impact of Covid-19. And this is happening before the autumn and winter, when existing health conditions are often exacerbated and icier weather will almost inevitably lead to an increase in falls and injuries among older people.

We’re very lucky that our ambulance service is packed to the gunnels with skilled and dedicated crew but in recent months the pressure they have been under seems extraordinary. Stretched, at times, to breaking point, I do not envy them but offer the most grateful thanks for everything they do.

These services are in desperate need of support to handle an immediate challenge of ensuring fair, equal, and speedy access to medical treatment in an emergency.