Scots ambulance staff say patient safety at risk

A poll of Scottish Ambulance Service staff has revealed that most think patient safety is being compromised by a lack of resources. Picture: John Devlin
A poll of Scottish Ambulance Service staff has revealed that most think patient safety is being compromised by a lack of resources. Picture: John Devlin
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PATIENT safety is being put at risk because over-stretched and ill-equipped 999 crews cannot get to them in time, more than 100 ambulance workers have said in a whistleblowing survey.

Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) staff have reported seeing public safety being compromised with people routinely let down because of a lack of resources on the frontline.

The survey was sent to 999 workers including paramedics, ambulance technicians, call handlers and transport staff through the trade union Unite.

Of the 116 staff who replied, a total of 94 per cent said they had “witnessed patient safety being compromised due to a lack of resources”.

A further 97 per cent said their job had become “more pressurised” over the last year, and 95 per cent said it had become “more stressful”, as the service faces soaring demand and swingeing cuts.

The survey also found that 33 per cent felt they had the time to do their job to the best of their ability, while 36 per cent said they had time to do their job safely.

A third also said they had taken time off sick due to stress in the past year, while half said they did not see themselves working in the service in five years’ time.

Jamie McNamee, a paramedic and national lead steward for Unite, said: “Staff feel physically and mentally abused as a result of resource management and deployment.”

Scottish Labour’s public health spokesman Dr Richard Simpson said the “shocking stress” figures pointed to a lack of resource in the ambulance service.

Simpson said: “Paramedics do incredible, life-saving work. It is already a high-pressure job, but for effectively every respondent to this survey to say the job has gotten more stressful in the last year is shocking and suggests a lack of resources and support for staff.”

A spokesman for the SAS, defending its performance, said: “Ambulance staff across Scotland are working harder than ever to respond to sustained increases in emergency demand and last year attended nearly 750,000 emergency incidents.

“The average response time for a life-threatening emergency was 6.6 minutes and the continued investment in clinical skills and equipment resulted in more lives being saved.”

The Scottish Government said it has protected and increased the SAS budget and invested in front-line jobs.

A government spokeswoman said: “We have also invested an additional £5 million per year to fund 150 front-line jobs in the SAS, as part of a deal agreed with unions that enables ambulance staff to respond to emergency calls while on a break.

“This thereby strengthens the clinical response to life-threatening emergencies and supporting an increase in community paramedics in remote and rural areas.”