The grieving family of a north-east woman have called for improvements to their ambulance service following her sudden death.
Pam Anderson, 74, from Braemar, died after suffering a cardiac arrest on September 24 in the back of an emergency vehicle taking her to hospital.
Her husband Douglas, also 74, and daughter Sarah Christie want to shine a light on the tragedy so that nobody has to go through the same ordeal.
Braemar’s ambulance was withdrawn in 2007 and the nearest vehicle is now based 17 miles away in Ballater.
On the day Pam, a care home manager, died, an ambulance arrived from Ballater but could not transport her to hospital because there was only Scottish Ambulance Service employee in the vehicle.
A two-crew team then arrived from Tomintoul, which is more than 30 miles away, but she died on the way to Aberdeen.
Retired marine industry worker Douglas believes the paramedics were very professional and tried everything possible to save his wife but he wants a better service for the Deeside village.
He said it was important to have an ambulance in the village with two dedicated paramedics – which is a requirement for taking patients to hospital.
Douglas, a father-of-three, said: “It was difficult. She was fine the day before and then on the morning of it, she said she needed a doctor.
“Pam had quite a high pain threshold and when she needed a doctor I knew it was serious.
“There was one ambulance and then another was called. I was trying to get Pam an overnight bag and then they were gone.
“She arrested several times in the ambulance and died at 10.05 am.
“We want a two-man crew in Braemar. It might not have saved my wife but it might save the next person.
“The community is on board with this. I went to the community council and they have taken it on.
“This is perhaps a sign for local and national government that we need a better service for Braemar for the future.”
Douglas is due to meet Scottish Ambulance Service bosses next week to discuss the calls for changes to the services.
He said: “They rang me up and I’m due to meet them next week. The regional manager expressed his condolences. We’ll listen to what they say.”
Tree surgeon Sarah, 38, said: “My mum was well-liked in the village and would do anything for anybody.
“Her death has brought home to us what a precarious situation we are in in this outlying community.
“We don’t know if it could have changed the outcome for Mum but maybe if we get the right resources it could for someone else.”
The family’s calls for better emergency services has gathered support from local GP Donald Cruickshank who tried to help Pam.
He said: “A single man crew can’t transport a patient to hospital. We are an hour-and-a-half from Aberdeen if we have to wait for a double crew that can be critical.
“We were given an assurance when our ambulance was taken away all those years ago that there wouldn’t be a single man crew attending to emergency calls but there have been several instances where this has happened.”
Braemar Community Council is writing to the Scottish Ambulance Service and an Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside councillor has raised the issue with health secretary Jeane Freeman.
Councillor Geva Blackett said: “Mrs Anderson was a much loved and well-respected member of the community and will be sorely missed.
“When the ambulance was removed from here we all knew that it would take at least two hours from call out to the patient arriving at Aberdeen but were assured by the Scottish Ambulance Service that a two-person crew would always be available.
“This is not the first time a wholly inadequate service has been provided to this community.
“As soon as I became aware of the concerns around this case I wrote to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport asking her to investigate and she has assured me that the process is under way.”
Scottish Conservative MSP for Aberdeenshire West, Alexander Burnett, said: “Mrs Anderson’s family have selflessly highlighted a serious injustice that dates back more than a decade. It must be incredibly painful for them to do so.
“The removal of the ambulance in 2007 left a hole that is still keenly felt in Braemar.
“Paramedics do an excellent job, but they are all too often hampered by how far they have to come, and how few of them there now are. Health is just one area in which north-east communities feel short-changed by the SNP over the last 13 years.
“All contributing factors to Mrs Anderson’s tragic death must be scrutinised, and I support any attempt to get answers from Jeane Freeman and the ambulance service.
“Not every community can be eligible for its own ambulance.
“But it’s clear there are serious coverage problems in our rural communities that should be addressed urgently.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “We would like to express our deepest sympathies and condolences to the family following the tragic passing of Mrs Anderson.
“We are limited in what we can say about individual cases due to patient confidentiality but we have been in close contact with the family and have arranged a meeting with them to discuss the case in detail.
“The Braemar area is served by ambulance stations in Ballater, Tomintoul, Alford and Banchory. While these are the stations which are geographically the closest, the ambulance service will always dispatch the closest, most appropriate response.
“The service have a wide range of resources which can be deployed depending on the nature of the incident and the condition of the patient, such as ambulances, paramedic response units, air ambulances, advanced practitioners and community first responders.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said:“Our thoughts and condolences go out to the family of Mrs Anderson at this distressing time.
“We are aware that the ambulance service has been looking into the specific detail around this incident and have arranged to meet with the family early next week to discuss their concerns.
“The Service is carrying out a national review of demand and capacity which will help to ensure they are working as efficiently as possible and have resources in place to meet both current and projected future demand.
“We are committed to supporting this work and last week we announced up to £11m in additional funding for the Service which will see 148 new staff and 24 new vehicles put in place throughout the country and the reduction of requirement for on-call working in some of our more rural communities.”