“Sorry, we can’t find an ambulance”

Jim O’Neill returns from Oz to find the same faces overseeing the same failures in Scottish public services, and thinks New Zealand may have a better example to offer us than a cribbed passage in the Growth Commission report.


As I return from the madhouse that is Australian politics, with the Commonwealth run by the Liberal/National Coalition (think Tory/extreme Tory), a shocking story from a friend reminded me of the dreadful state of our government.

The friend, who has a disabled daughter, called for an emergency ambulance with her daughter in severe pain. After some delay she was told “We can’t find an ambulance available, you’d better bring her to hospital yourselves”. As it turned out the parents’ concern was well justified, although thankfully her daughter has now recovered.

What state is our National Health Service in that an emergency ambulance cannot be found for a child in severe pain? But this is the kind of day-to-day problem we find in our NHS run by Shona Robison and the SNP government.

Periodically the fundamental problems are highlighted in Parliament, such as the Tayside crisis, the fraudulent reporting in the Lothians, or the endemic overspends by almost every other health board, but it is the so-called small issues, like that experienced by my friend, that make up people’s everyday experience. None of this is the fault of the caring staff employed, but when we have the largest consultant vacancies in history, a massive gap in our nursing staff, and General Practice in disarray, surely it is time to make changes at the top.

But Nicola has not reshuffled her cabinet in two years.

This has left John Swinney in change of education, a service in which he has almost Panglossian belief, none of which is based on verifiable fact. The last teachers’ national strike was when I was in charge of one of the unions in the mid-eighties. I know how difficult it is to convince teachers to withdraw their labour. But the recent EIS conference committed to strike action if improvements are not made soon, while Swinney sits in his ivory tower, hands over his ears, singing la-la-la-la-la.

We also have a Transport Bill brought forward by the ever accident-prone Humza Yousaf. At a time when even the Tory government in England has accepted the breakdown of the franchise model, Yousaf has refused to accept the case for any change in Scotland. This at a time when Abellio’s parent company, Netherlands Rail, have been fined by the Dutch Government for their overseas losses. And this Bill argues for “partnerships” between the private sector and local authorities rather than allowing local authority owned transport systems, as successfully shown by Lothian Buses. Having rejected the People’s Rail proposals, he is giving short shrift to the People’s Bus proposals too.

Yet Nicola seems to see no need to change any of these serial failures. Is that because this would expose her own culpability in managing Scotland to the benefit of her party, not the benefit of its people. And all of this capped by a farcical staged walkout by their Westminster troops, giving up four PMQ opportunities to challenge the Prime Minister on her own failings. How is that representing their constituents?

Meanwhile, another story shows the continuing incompetence of the DWP in running the state benefit system. A friend (yes I do have more than one) tells me of a recent experience. He is also disabled and has to lodge his current bank statement to ensure the continuance of one of his benefits. He did so, as requested, but received a letter the day before his benefit was due telling him that since he had not lodged his statement, his benefit would be cancelled next day. He phoned the DWP, but had difficulty in getting through since the number had changed, without being changed on the letter.

When he finally got through, the officer confirmed that they had received his statement but that it had not been recorded since the staff were so overwhelmed that they often did not check the record. The position was resolved but only after much concern and upset to my friend. This was compounded when he asked why the new phone number was not on the letter. He was told that the Department did not have enough money left to change the paperwork, and they were now waiting for the delivery of new paperwork. You couldn’t make it up.

This at the same time when Theresa May is coming up with Brext plans that she knows will not be accepted, Boris Johnston calling the negotiation a shambles in public and scenes of the Chief Whip scuttling about the benches of the Commons trying to get a deal that will stave off the most recent crisis – a deal that had unravelled within 24 hours. I cannot remember, in 40+ years of political and trade union campaigning, a time when the governments of Scotland and the UK have been more in chaos.

So, to steal a phrase from Lenin – What Is To Be Done?

At FMQs, Partick Harvie, an SNP lapdog, was criticising the so-called Growth Commission report as being heavily based on the policies of the now-discredited New Zealand National Party government. He praised at length the change in atmosphere created by the new NZ Government. Breaking news for Mr Harvie – that new Kiwi government is led by New Zealand Labor. So a step for a hint, Patrick, as we say in Ayrshire. Maybe, just maybe, that is the way forward for Scotland.

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35 thoughts on ““Sorry, we can’t find an ambulance”

  1. Cheer up, Jim, soon there eill be no problem when Westminster sbolishes the Scottish Parliament and we can revert to being run by the Svengalis (not convinced of that plural) who have made such a fine job of running yhe U.K. Oh happy day!

      1. Noted all the typos and your Svengalis is right, but your belief that the Scottish Parliament is about to be abolished is off the mark

        1. Your putting trust trust in oyh the tories and Westminster is toching, Jim, but very naive

  2. hey Jim here’s a good one for you !

    What do you call a “humming birds beak” ??????????

    When you get the answer, remember this is the level labour is at.

    1. A bill! but asking five year olds that is crazy. As a former teacher, baseline assessment at five does not work. Kids come into “infant classes” with a massive range of understanding from very good literary and numerical skills, to none at all. Don’t waste teachers’ time with ridiculous tests and let them get on with the job

  3. The Muppets would have been nothing without Statler And Waldorf. They claim to hate everything the Muppets stand for, but they’re back week after week, launching their bombs from their pricey seats, dying to see what the show will bring them next.
    Which one are you Jim?

    1. Richard, leave your cynicism behind for once . First, I do not write every week, but second, I will never apologise for pointing out the failings of the SNP and Tory Governments, as indeed I didn’t refrain from criticising what I saw as the failures of Blair

      1. I am not cynical. I hope for a better day with Labour in charge, but if the SNP showed real socialist verve, I would support their government policies, but not their nationalism. Sadly they don’t

  4. So we need a Labour govt providing an infinite number of ambulances staffed by an infinite number of crew? It’s not the Scottish Govt that’s living in a fantasy land.

    1. Don’t misquote me Mr Pony. I pointed out a major failing that impacted on a friend but which has been spoken about before.

      1. I didn’t misquote you. I merely drew the obvious conclusion from the minimal facts you gave. You have not told us why there was no ambulance available. Was it because there were none on at all or was it because there were plenty of them but they were all on other calls?

        You appear to believe there should be an ambulance for every call that comes in but how many is that? If the Health Board decides three are enough for that area because there has never been more than two calls at any one time there, what happens if there are four calls? The Health Board could decide to increase the number of ambulances to five, but what happens if they then get six calls?

        You get the picture. You either set the number of ambulances at a reasonable level that you believe will be sufficient for the vast majority of occasions, but accepting there may be the rare occasion it is not, or you have many more ambulances than you believe you will ever need and take the financial hit (not to mention the opprobrium from such as yourself for wasting money).

        And that is the point. You still seem to believe there is a magic money tree to pay for Labour’s ever expanding and undeliverable wish list. People, I’m sure, are well aware of this.

        1. Love the Tory, magic money tree” excuse. What we are talking about is priorities. If that means some ambulances and crews sitting idle for a while, then so be it

  5. Lets see if I can help its my DWP recent experience Jim is speaking about .
    As they do every year for ESA I got a letter from the DWP asking for a bank statement on Thursday 17th May
    Friday the 18th May I ordered a bank statement phoned the DWP told them statement ordered told the operator bank said it will take 7 working days for me to receive it .
    Operator said great he will enter that info on my file.
    He then asked how long I had been on hold before I got an operator it is a free call good job because I said 47 mins .
    He said good it was over an hr this morning. Friday 25th May Bank statement arrived posted to the DWP to ESA Greenock Mail Handling site A Wolverhampton WV98 2AP.
    Phoned the DWP to tell them bank statement on the way operator put that info on my file 41 mins to get an operator we both agreed that’s fast for them .Saturday 26th May DWP letter arrived telling me ESA had been approved until November Well lap of honour time .Until I read the letter again it was to tell me my 2017 allowance for ESA had been allowed I did not even bother the DWP with a phone call not open weekends anyway .
    Back to this years ESA claim .
    Thursday 31st May I phoned the DWP see if this years bank statement had arrived .Did not bother them about last years letter arriving 1 year late bad form you understand. And I thought why complicate things.
    47 mins later free phone call and at 47 mins quick for them .
    A very nice man in Newport South Wales answered its usually Blackburn anyway I asked him if he had received my Bank statement for ESA ..Posted it on 25th May he said probably not because it takes them 9 working days to process he mail .
    Then he was surprised to find they did have my statement he was shocked at the system being that quick .Told me not to worry he would enter into the system my bank statement had arrived and I had phoned.
    I think you know whats coming next .
    Wednesday 13th June A DWP letter arrived we wrote to you on 10th May regarding your ESA claim asking for an up to date bank statement as we received it we are requesting a bank statement by the 14th June or we will terminate your claim .So I was left with 1 day to get a new bank statement no chance
    13th June I phoned the DWP 1 HR 10 MINS later free call got an operator in Blackburn .
    Told him my story He checked the system bank statement received by DWP 29th of May its in the system .Ignore cut of letter .I was to receive an ESA payment into my bank account next day.
    I asked how did I get the letter .
    Was told the mail goes to Wolverhampton to be scanned into the system .
    I was told the benefit staff they don’t have time to check whats on the system. They are only processing priority cases .
    I am glad to say I am not a priority
    So because they did not have time to check the system for my bank statement which is in the system .
    A computer automatically sent me the letter to terminate my ESA claim at 1 days notice.
    I was told don’t worry its now in the system. So I asked if the benefit staff are that overworked they are not checking whats on the system .Whats to stop a computer automatically stopping my ESA .Was told that wont happen because before they can terminate a claim a staff member will have to manually check the system and at that point they will see they received my bank statement on 29th May
    So I asked why is it all those letters I have been receiving why when I phoned the DWP number on the letter a recorded message cuts In with a new phone number .I was told the DWP changed its phone number .
    But the cost of changing the old stationery would be that astronomical DWP don’t have the funds .So they are using the old stationary with a recorded message until the new stationary kicks in.
    For anyone needing the new number its 08001690310 FREE CALL .At the start of the call a computer will ask you why you are phoning and Universal credit clients they cant deal with your enquiry go online or use your journal
    I am on 0xygen 15 hrs a day . I am going to Gartnavel Hospital for a respiratory checkup on Tuesday I get home visits from Respiratory nurses I have to make regular visits to my GP plus I am on medication
    And I am not suppose to have undue pressure
    I have told the DWP call centre operators on the phone several times this is our lives you are messing up .
    Although I do know the DWP mess is not their fault

  6. The DWP letter I got on 13 June told me as they had NOT received my bank statement and unless they got one by the 14th June I was being terminated

  7. Bungo
    If you read this I understand you are a union rep and work in the health service .
    I think you might be interested in Andrew Marrs article in yesterdays Sunday Times
    Its in the news review section he comments on the why and how the health service was created by Labours health minister AneurinBevan on July 5 1948 at Trafford General Hospital Manchester .
    He claims thousands of doctors hated it .That’s why they were allowed to keep private beds or as Bevan put it I stuffed their mouths with gold .
    The 50thousand GPS were told they would be paid on the number of patients they were treating rather than receive a flat salary .He goes on to describe allthe highs and lows
    Winter flu strikes botched reforms and his own kidney cancer he says giving up universal health care is unthinkable .
    Me my Respiratory nurse from Cross house hospital visited me at home today 40 min visit great result .
    Tomorrow Tuesday Patient Transport to Gartnavel hospital Glasgow respiratory clinic for a checkup .

  8. Jim Sillars has entered the Brexit debate again
    He is claiming Nicola is primarily to blame for the standoff between the Scottish and UK Governments over which powers should go to Holyrood rather than Westminster after Brexit .
    He says displays of foolish hostility would harm Scotland in the Brexit discussions .
    He said Nicola made repeated strategic and tactical errors that resulted in the loss of the SNPS Holyrood majority in 2016 and the loss of MPS and votes in last years General election .Our Jim has claimed the SNP are in the ludicrous position of demanding powers from Mrs May that Nicola promises an Independent Scotland will hand back to Mr Junker he says there needs to be debate between Holyrood and Westminster .
    He claims that hurling power grab at London will paint the SNP into an indignant corner .
    He claims he cannot remember the PM making 1 hostile speech or any deliberate action that could be construed as an outright attempt to trash Scotlands constitutional position in a fundamental way.
    He praised Ian Blackford for last weeks walkout saying his anger was real and justified But Jim says it has not created a constitutional crises .
    For all they criticise the so called unionist press. That article was to the Sunday Times Kevan Pringle has a Sunday Times column
    Alec Salmond and Kenny Makaskill both had their books serialized by Murdoch papers .
    Alec Salmond has told the Sunday Herald that Ian Blackford phoned him last Tuesday night for advice about PMQS seems they can speak to Eck when they have to .

    1. Jim Sillars is a loose cannon brexiteer who does not want his dream of leaving the EU taken from him. He is the Indy equivalent of Gordon Brown. An illustrious past but largely irrelevant now.

      1. At least Jim Sillars is a proper nationalist, he believes in actual independence.

        Sturgeon and the rest of the cult are “plastic” nationalists, happy to be in the pocket of the EU.

        1. That is offensive nonsense.

          As Brexit has proven, the UK was always in control of its own sovereignty (ie independent) as it was able to unilaterally withdraw from the EU. No permission from our other independent partners in the EU was necessary. Barnier was not able to patronisingly pat the UK on the head and say “now is not the time”.

          Independence would allow Scotland to decide how much sovereignty, if any, we pool with the EU should we decide to join. And if we don’t want to remain, we can withdraw as the UK is currently (shambolically) doing.

          As things stand, if we want to leave the UK, we have to get the permission of another country’s elected representatives.

          If you’re going to be offensive, at least be accurate

          1. The people of Scotland voted to Remain part of the UK.

            Take my advice Bungo; you should stop being such a snowflake and at the very least; try to show a bit of respect for democracy.

          2. Yet another offensive comment.

            Do you think democracy means you only get one chance to vote on an issue and that is it? Even when it becomes plain the promises and claims of the “winning” side have been shown to be empty and false? That is not my definition of democracy Andy.

            You are just afraid that the fear and negativity driven results of the last two referenda, that suited you, would be overturned as the people increasingly begin to realise they were conned. That is not you “championing” democracy; that is you “fearing” it.

  9. Thanks for your comment Bungo
    I agree with your comment on Jim Sillars he was also very much against devolution I believe
    That diatribe against Nicola was only some of it the Sunday Times printed the rest is online .
    Gordon Brown I would have agreed until David Mundell claimed when being interviewed by Gordon Brewer that Gordon Brown and Jim Gallagher were involved on behalf of Scottish Labour behind the scenes last Tuesday in drawing up amendments that were very close to the SNP case .He then said that’s why the UK government found them unacceptable .
    He said SNP and Scottish Labour are joined at the hip on this behind the scenes .
    So I think there are things going on we don’t know about .
    Have you caught what Andrew Marr said about NHS history and his cancer .
    I spent most of the day at Gartnavel hospital today
    Waiting room expert world cup analysis Belgium will win it .Based on the fact 1 guy has backed them .
    I will stay with Russia and I don’t have a bet on .
    Also it was our collective opinion that there was to much added on time in the England game .
    And the tv coverage and England match commentary has gone overboard did we really need live coverage of the team arriving at the airport .

    1. I worked at Gartnavel one Summer over 30 years ago. I doubt there is anyone there I’d know now.

      I’m supporting Belgium simply because they have a good chance and it would be good to see a wee country win it for a change.

      I’m not bothered about the coverage of the England team as we are not there. If Scotland was there, and was being ignored in preference to the England team, I’d be a bit annoyed but, then again, it was ever thus. I remember, when I was active with a social rugby team, staying up late to watch a pre-tournament programme supposedly giving a round-up of all four “home countries” teams prior to a World Sevens tournament in Hong Kong. What I watched was 50 mins of what a great bunch of guys the England team were, and less than 10 mins of brief commentary on the other three teams combined. I was not a happy bunny. But that is Scotland’s place in this Union …. very much the subordinate partner …. and not even that according to Mundell.

      When I was younger, I wanted everyone to beat England as they were our rather arrogant, overly smug, local rivals …. much as Accies fans feel about ‘Well. That gradually morphed into a stubborn resistance to being told I had to support England or be branded a bigot by unionists. Now I don’t particularly care what those people think and just support who I want …. in this case Belgium …. and let them froth at the mouth.

  10. Couple of things I want to say
    Comment no 1 in both my local papers today the Labour North Ayrshire council leader is rightly furious at the decision of Scottish Enterprise not to create a new Irvine Medical research centre which would have created at least 850 jobs its gone to Renfrewshire .The centre was to be a big part of the Ayrshire 350 million pound growth deal.
    This after North Ayrshire lost out when the Scottish Government awarded the new social security agency to Glasgow and Dundee .Each will create 750 jobs .
    Before I am accused of SNP bad our SNP MSP Ruth Maguire said the case for having the site here was strong and credible the site is shovel ready it would have been up and running quickly she will be asking questions as to why the site was overlooked.
    For me what else does NAC have to do to attract investment in to North Ayrshire I have to ask and I don’t want to believe it is it because North Ayrshire Council is Labour Controlled and we have a SNP Government and a Tory Government at UK level
    So can someone tell me what NAC are doing wrong in trying to attract much needed investment into our area and why they lose out when those decisions are made .
    You see NAC are doing the day job .They are launching a plan Fairpower to tackle fuel poverty and cut power bills

  11. Comment no2
    America First separating children from their parents in detention centres Italy First cracking down by turning away boats bringing people and sending them to Spain Merkel in trouble in Germany .
    Here the EU referendum never got past immigration including in Scotland how many of us have heard someone say look at them Polish guys over here doing our jobs .
    Usually at roadworks .
    This is a huge world wide problem we need to tackle we could start by ending the war in Syria
    Putin reportedly said its a great place to test new weapons systems and give soldiers battle experience .
    We could probably put America first in the same boat.

  12. Comment no 3
    Was on a bus today heading into Kilmarnock bus station
    A primary school boy was walking along with his mum who was not paying him any attention as she was on her mobile.
    So he sat down on the pavement back against the wall feet out on the pavement .
    Took his lunch out of his school bag and got stuck in .
    His Mum still on the phone thought it was a great laugh

  13. The DWP are that snowed under their benefit staff are no longer checking the system for ESA letters .As I know .
    Universal Credit claiments get told when phoning that they cant go any further go online or check their journal .
    So if the DWP cant cope with that how will the system cope with the new EU citizen test .
    Ch 4 news on Thursday night the new system involves answering questions etc online .
    It was pointed out this will be a mammoth task and some of the people are OAPS with no computers or the ability to operate one.
    They also interviewed an expat who has been living in Spain for 20 years she has no idea what will happen to her after Brexit .
    CH4 said there are approximately 1 million other expats all over the EU in the same boat .
    And with more Brexit related job loses being threatened today and the extra NHS funding to come from tax rises can someone ask Nigel for an explanation.
    Then there is Boris who said he would do us all a favour by allowing himself to be flattened by a steamroller rather than allow a 3rd Heathrow runway .
    The vote is on Monday and Boris has apparently found an urgent need to get on a plane to anywhere .
    And BTW the DWP have the wrong contact number on their letters don’t have the funds to change the stationary
    This is the number 08001690310 good luck

  14. Maybe the blog should have been titled cant find the foreign secretary .
    As we know Boris rather than prostrate himself in front of a steamroller on behalf of his constituents had to get on a plane to anywhere .We were told it was Africa .
    Sunday night the foreign office could not tell the BBC which African country was to receive the honour of his presence .
    Turns out its Afghanistan not quite Africa but even more important not Westminster Monday night either .Well the remaining Tory rebels have called him spineless .
    Boris contacted his local party to say his resignation would be pointless .
    At the next election his constituents might like to remember what he said about business and do it to him

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