New information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed between the last quarter of 2020/21 and the second quarter of 2020 the number of single crew ambulance shifts soared from 468 to 797.
Critics warn that single crewed ambulances pose a risk to patient wellbeing, leaving patients in the back of the ambulance without assistance while the lone crew member drives. In 2008, then-health secretary Nicola Sturgeon pledged to “eliminate” the practice, describing it as an “issue of deep concern”.
The Scottish Ambulance service claims ambulances are not single-crewed “other than in exceptional circumstances”, however these new figures suggest since the start of the pandemic this has happened more than 3,500 times. In the last six months alone, it has happened more than 1,400 times.
This comes as the crisis in ambulances services escalates, with workers sounding the alarm and turnaround times rising.
Scottish Labour’s Health and Covid Recovery spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “This sharp rise adds to mounting evidence the crisis in our ambulance service is completely out of control. Single-crewed ambulances put lives at risk and leave ambulance workers in an impossible position.
“The SNP were too slow to get a grip on this crisis and they are still falling short. We need a real plan to save ambulance services before any more lives are lost.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Ambulances are never routinely single crewed but there are occasions due to late staff call-offs where ambulances will be single-crewed.”
He added: “The 797 shifts quoted remains means over 98 per cent of the total shifts covered for the period concerned were not affected. We continue to support the service to reduce instances of single crewing with more than £20 million additional investment over the past two years to support recruitment of nearly 300 additional staff as well as the £20 million funding package recently announced to help the service cope with the challenges posed by Covid-19.”