Residents in some Aberdeenshire towns are waiting at least twice as long for an ambulance as those in other parts of the region, new figures have revealed.
Performance statistics from the Scottish Ambulance Service highlight the challenges facing areas that do not have a local station nearby.
In life-threatening situations in 2018 up to October 31, the average length of time taken to respond to a 999 call from Turriff was 18 minutes.
In contrast, ambulances arrived in Peterhead within seven minutes, while the average for the whole of Grampian was six minutes and 50 seconds, within the national target of eight minutes.
Separate figures obtained following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the Scottish Conservatives have also shown that there have been dozens of hoax calls in the past year, including 65 in the North division.
North east Scottish Conservative MSP Peter Chapman said: “Our first responders do a terrific job, but the response time can often depend on the proximity of the nearest ambulance station.
“Towns like Turriff, for example, suffer some of the worst times with stations at Inverurie, Aberdeen and Peterhead – none of which are within the target time of eight minutes.
“For most people, ambulances are at the scene in less than eight minutes, but that extra time could be the difference between life and death.
“That’s what makes the level of hoax calls all the more galling. It is no exaggeration to say that lives are on the line.”
A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We prioritise the sickest, most seriously ill patients and as a result of this approach, we have almost doubled survival rates for cardiac arrest patients since 2013. For less ill patients, our call handlers may spend a little more time with the patient to better understand their condition and ensure we get the right, not necessarily the nearest or quickest, response to the patient first time.
“In remote areas of Scotland, we have a range of resources we can deploy depending on the nature of the incident from rapid deployment of our network of Community First Responders, to air support, ambulance crews, paramedic response units or other emergency services if they are nearby.
“We are currently training an additional 1,000 paramedics across Scotland who will further increase our capacity, whilst our £78 million investment programme is introducing 1,000 new vehicles between 2016 and 2020.”