Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today called on the Health Secretary to apologise to ambulance staff and patients after he revealed that the proportion of shifts going unfilled in Scotland’s ambulance service has been steadily increasing since 2019.
New figures uncovered by the Scottish Liberal Democrats through freedom of information requests reveal that in January 2019, the Scottish Ambulance Service was able to cover 99.3% of the staff hours required. However, by July 2021, this had fallen to just 88%. For three months straight in excess of 20,000 hours of staffing cover wasn’t filled.
Commenting on the figures, Mr Cole-Hamilton said:
“These figures are a horror for patients and staff alike. The Ambulance Service is very clear about the number of staff it needs to respond to calls but the proportion of shifts that it has been able to fill is heading steadily downwards.
“Week after week I have pressed the government about the crisis in emergency care and week after week the government respond by blaming the pandemic. Yet the former Chief Executive of NHS Scotland said this crisis has been years in the making and the pandemic has only hastened the date.
“It must be hellish for call handlers taking repeat calls asking when an ambulance will be there. Paramedics know that behind the doors they knock are people who have been waiting in pain for hours.
“It isn’t the fault of the staff who’ve been issuing warnings for years. It’s the fault of consecutive SNP health secretaries who didn’t listen to them. Humza Yousaf must apologise and fix it before any more families lose loved ones because help couldn’t arrive in time.
“It is why Scottish Liberal Democrats have proposed an urgent new Burnout Prevention Strategy to protect everyone on the frontline this winter. Staff and the public also deserve an inquiry into avoidable deaths connected to the emergency care crisis.”