Ambulance crashes run up £75,000 repair bill

CRASHES with parked cars and objects have left the ambulance service in Scotland with a repair bill of more than £75,000 since last year, figures revealed yesterday.

Between January last year and 6 April this year, 88 ambulances hit "immobile objects" – ten were responding to 999 calls.

The immobile objects did not include other vehicles or pedestrians but data on the main cause of the damage was not recorded.

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Forty ambulances were also damaged in crashes with parked cars since January last year, the Scottish Ambulance Service said in answers following a Freedom of Information request. Repairs to the vehicles cost 75,443 but the service said no patients were hurt in the collisions and there is no record of whether staff were disciplined for the crashes.

No vehicles were damaged by collisions with pedestrians during the period.

Information on whether patients were in the ambulances at the time of the collisions was not held, the service said.

Since January 2005, on separate occasions four staff failed a breath test while at work. Two of the tests were internal and two were by the police. The service said: "Due to the small numbers involved, we cannot release specific details without breaching the right to privacy of the individuals concerned." It pointed out that no accidents or collisions had taken place when a staff member had been found to be over the limit.

The Scotland Patients' Association (SPA) demanded more information from the ambulance service about the figures.

Dr Jean Turner, executive director of the association, said: "SPA would expect rigorous checks on staff arriving at work under the influence of alcohol or drugs. We would expect that the staff have the same rules as airline pilots, to have a set number of hours free from alcohol prior to driving an ambulance, or any staff member on duty.

"We were pleased that they are doing breath tests and perhaps it is due to rigorous testing that the figure is so low as four who failed the tests.

"The very high cost of 70,000 for collisions with static objects such as parked cars was not connected with alcohol and one wonders what were the reasons for such good drivers, who cope at speed, to log such a high cost.

"I think we should know more about these accidents because if they were in service and had patients aboard we should know.

"70,000 could be better spent on patients and we should know more about the breakdown of that sum paid out over 12 months-plus."

A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: "All vehicle crew staff undertake specialist driver training. Our vehicles drive over two million miles every month to help patients, often in the most extreme and difficult weather conditions when other drivers would not venture out.

"Any member of staff suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol at work would be subjected to disciplinary processes."