The British military could be called in to help Scottish ambulance crews after services were hit by waiting times of up to 40 hours.
Speaking in the Scottish parliament, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon apologised “unreservedly” for the backlog and announced that using the military would ease the pressure on the health system.
The move comes after Gerald Brown, 65, from Glasgow, died after reportedly waiting up to 40 hours for an ambulance. His death has sparked an official investigation.
Ms Sturgeon said the waiting times for some patients were “not acceptable”.
“I apologise unreservedly to anyone that has suffered or is suffering unacceptably long waits.
"I'll be going back to my office to finalise the detail of the request for military assistance so we can submit that as quickly as possible," Ms Sturgeon said.
“Such military assistance is already being provided to ambulance services in England and of course we have had military assistance for other aspects of the pandemic over the past 18 months.”
The ongoing pressure on ambulance wait times is being blamed on Covid-related issues.
Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish health system was facing "probably the most challenging combination of circumstances that our health service has faced since its establishment".
She said: “These are challenges mirrored in health services across the UK and indeed many parts of the world because of the realities of Covid."
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, who said on Wednesday that people should “think twice” before calling for an ambulance, will make a statement to parliament next week, setting out measures being taken by the Scottish government to ease the crisis.
The Scottish Conservative Party leader Douglas Ross criticised Mr Yousaf’s comments, calling them “dangerous and reckless”, and urged the first minister to apologise on Mr Yousaf’s behalf – which she did not.
Instead, the first minister said people should “never hesitate in calling an ambulance if that is the intervention they think is required”.
Mr Ross said the ambulance service was "in crisis", and that cases such as Mr Brown's "shouldn't be happening in Scotland in 2021".
He said: “Last week, the first minister wouldn’t accept the ambulance service is in crisis, surely the last seven days will have changed her mind?”
Ms Sturgeon refused to say there was a crisis, instead saying: “I don’t challenge the extent of the pressure that’s on our ambulance service and indeed on all parts of our national health service.