Concern at plans to ‘integrate’ emergency services

New recruits could receive �training from each of the three emergency services as bosses draw up plans to pool resources and face the challenges of Scotland's ageing population. Picture: Michael Gillen.
New recruits could receive �training from each of the three emergency services as bosses draw up plans to pool resources and face the challenges of Scotland's ageing population. Picture: Michael Gillen.
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New recruits could receive ­training from each of the three emergency services as bosses draw up plans to pool resources and face the challenges of Scotland’s ageing population.

Police Scotland, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) and the Scottish Ambulance Service plan to “integrate” their services.

The move will potentially see firefighters respond to more cardiac emergencies, and ambulance staff “embedded” in police control rooms to help deal with calls relating to mental ill health. The plans, which are due to go before by the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) today, include developing a joint dementia strategy and exploring the option of having all three services provide basic training for all new recruits and trainees.

The SPA said joint training was the “key” to improved collaboration between the emergency services.

But the Scottish Police Federation (SPF), which represents rank and file officers, said Police Scotland had insufficient numbers to carry out all its work without being called on to help the other services.

The strategy cites a projected 7 per cent increase in the population and a 150 per cent increase in the population aged over 85 by 2037 as the requirement for “new and innovative ways of working”.

It calls for the three emergency services to explore the option of having input into the basic training for all new recruits.

Calum Steel, general secretary of the SPF, said: “It’s disappointing the first the Scottish Police Federation hears about any of these proposals is when we read it in the board papers to be discussed by the SPA today.

“Police officers have been aware of the shortcomings of other emergency services, principally the ambulance service and often undertake functions that are not our core responsibility.

“At this point in time, there are not enough police officers to do all of the police work, without being potentially asked to undertake activities on behalf of other services.”

Earlier this year, The Scotsman revealed police concerns over the availability of ambulances after officers had to rush a man to hospital while performing CPR. Officers had been told paramedics would take 20 minutes to reach them.

For the past few years, firefighters have been trained to respond to out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in a partnership with the ambulance service. The strategy’s implementation plan includes extending the pilots to more fire stations across the country.

Scottish Labour’s justice spokesman Daniel Johnson said: “It is vital that our first responders are able to meet the demands of an ageing population, the growing mental health crisis and always be prepared to respond to the threat of terrorism, and there is much our emergency services can and should learn from each other.

“However, there is no replacement for the respective skills and expertise of each of our emergency services, and any plans for closer working must not be cover for SNP plans to cut firefighters or police officers.”

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said: “There’s no doubt that our emergency services face some unprecedented challenges, and that solutions to those will have to be found.

“Part of that could well be ensuring the skillset of workers is expanded, meaning people who phone 999 can be helped more quickly and effectively. However, it’s essential this doesn’t result in a reduction in safety and service.”

Susan Deacon, chairwoman of the SPA, said collaboration between the emergency services would become the “norm” over the coming years.

She said: “Organisations need to find new and better ways of working together to share resources and improve public services.

“This is about more than warm words and needs to be embedded in the way that services are designed and delivered.

“A collaborative approach needs to become the norm, so practical action like joint training and leadership development is key.”