Alarming new figures from the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) show an average of 44 trips by the Patient Transport Service (PTS) are called off every day.
In the year to May, the latest month for which figures are available, 6,747 non-emergency patient journeys were cancelled.
There were a staggering 51,145 journeys called off over the past three-and-a-half years, with 17,706 in 2016, 17,549 in 2015 and 9,143 in 2014.
March 2016 was the worst month with 2,392 cancellations, or 77 a day, followed by March this year with 2,188 cancellations, or 70.5 a day.
Of the total, 15,461 were cancelled on the same day the journey was set to take place, including 1,762 in the first five months of this year.
In addition, there were a further 46,679 trips where the request for an ambulance was unable to be taken beyond the booking stage.
The figures were released following a Freedom of Information request from the Scottish Conservatives.
In its response, the SAS said there were three reasons for the cancellations – when “demand exceeds the number of available resources”, when there were unexpected staff absences, or when specialist equipment, including bariatric equipment for lifting obese patients, was not available.
It emerged last month that demand for reinforced ambulances with wide loading doors and strengthened axles for carrying patients of up to 70 stones had more than doubled over the past five years.
The SAS added: “There are an increasing number of ever-changing variables which are impacting on our ability to respond to daily demands, including patients who require specialist responses, an increasing number of patients travelling further distances, namely to health board areas outwith their own for specialist care, and an increasing number of transport requests made on the day of travel.” The figures do not include journeys cancelled by the patient.
Scottish Tory shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said: “Demand is far outstripping supply, and this is just another example of the SNP Government failing to plan for the future.”
An SAS spokesman said: “In the last year, the service successfully undertook almost 780,000 patient transport journeys, ensuring patients were able to attend their hospital appointments and return home or to their place of care.
“We understand how important it is for patients to attend their appointments and do all we can to make sure we do not have to cancel journeys.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said an…