Nicola Sturgeon urged to intervene in dispute

THE Scottish Conservatives yesterday called on health secretary Nicola Sturgeon to take "personal responsibility" for resolving the life-threatening dispute between the Scottish Ambulance Service and the unions over payments to ambulance crews responding to emergency calls during their meal breaks.

Members of all three ambulance unions, Unison, Unite and the GMB, have rejected the management's latest offer of a one-off payment of 250 and compensatory overtime for crews called out to deal with an emergency during a rest period.

The new payment incentive was tabled by bosses at the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) following the furore over the deaths of two patients when the nearest ambulance crews failed to respond to 999 calls because they were on rest breaks.

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In October last year Mandy Mathieson, 33, died of a heart attack in Tomintoul, Moray, after an ambulance technician, on a break at the local depot only 800 yards away, failed to respond to a 999 call. And in April in Crieff, three-year-old Martyn Gray died when an ambulance was delayed when he became ill at home.

Murdo Fraser, the Scottish Conservative's health spokesman, said yesterday that it was time for Ms Sturgeon to intervene directly in the dispute. He said: "The rejection of a deal now means the SNP government cannot sit on the sidelines any longer. Alex Salmond and his SNP ministers have been hoping that if they shut their eyes and pretend it isn't happening, it will all go away."

Ms Sturgeon said last night: "As I have said from the outset, I am committed to overseeing all necessary action to address this issue. There is another meeting between SAS management and unions this week and I would expect the situation to move forward as a result."