"Does the ambulance delay because I have a mental health problem?"

About: Scottish Ambulance Service / Emergency Ambulance

(as the patient),

Earlier this year an ambulance was called to my home because I was suicidal. I saw the ambulance arrive outside, and then proceed to wait for a significant time without anyone leaving the vehicle. I do not remember them entering my home, because by the time they did I had lost consciousness.

I spent 2 days unconscious in hospital. I was later told that they would have waited outside because there was 'a mental health marker against my address' and so they would have waited for the police to attend as well before entering.

I have a mental health diagnosis, but have never been violent to another person or been thought to pose a risk to others by any of the psychiatrists who have assessed or treated me.

How did this marker come to be put against my address? It seems that it is direct discrimination against people with mental ill health, which increases their risk of death or adverse outcomes by delaying their care in an emergency.

I was much more unwell by the time I received assessment or treatment than when the ambulance arrived. I'd understand if there was a risk to staff to wait for police, but this has never been the case. Mental ill health and being suicidal is not a criminal offence.

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Response from Martin Esposito, Patient Experience Manager, Corporate Affairs and Engagement Department, Scottish Ambulance Service

picture of Martin Esposito

Dear mbw

Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

Firstly, I would like to apologise for any delay in providing you with care on that day. What is also concerning to me about your story is that you feel that you may have been discriminated because of your mental health history. I would like to reassure you that we are truly committed to helping and providing care to anyone who needs it.

I would like you to know that our Ambulance Control Centre does have the ability to ‘flag’ patients or addresses. This can be for a number of reasons including specific medical requirements or access information. Unfortunately, there are occasions when members of our staff face abuse in various forms and this is also one of the reasons that addresses can be flagged. We do review all of these flags on a regular basis so that the information is up to date and correct.

With limited details, it is really difficult to know what happened in your case but I would really like to find our more and provide you with some answers and reassurance, should you need our help in the future. Please can you contact me on 0131 314 0003 or at martinesposito@nhs.net

I do hope that you are keeping well and thank you for again for sharing your story.

Take care


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Update posted by mbw (the patient)

Dear Martin

Thank you for your helpful reply. It's really sad that staff face abuse in the course of their work, and it's understandable that addresses are flagged for safety reasons when this has been the case.

As this has never been the case at my address, and there weren't access issues either - there was no attempt to access the building with staff staying in the vehicle, it is hard to understand why the flag or marker was on my address and why the delay occurred.

I would really appreciate being able to talk it through and understand how it came to be in place and what can be done to review it. I'll try to give you a call tomorrow.

Thanks again.


Update posted by mbw (the patient)

Hi Martin

I just wanted to thank you for investigating this and getting back to me with information so quickly. It's really helped to understand what may have happened and to have someone listen and work to resolve my concerns. I've been left feeling the ambulance service really want to try to help.

Thank you


Response from Martin Esposito, Patient Experience Manager, Corporate Affairs and Engagement Department, Scottish Ambulance Service

picture of Martin Esposito

Hi mbw

Thank you for your kind words. I am just pleased to be able to help.

I will be back in touch with you soon to give you a further update.

take care


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