HELENSBURGH’S MSP has accused the Scottish Government of breaking its promise on the crewing of ambulances in the local area.
Jackie Baillie says that despite a promise by Nicola Sturgeon in 2008, when she was health secretary, to eliminate “single staffing” of ambulances, nearly 300 local emergency calls received a response from only one member of staff at the ambulance stations in Helensburgh, Arrochar and the Vale of Leven.
According to a freedom of information request to the Scottish Ambulance Service, in the last year alone there were 92 emergency responses with only one member of staff.
In Helensburgh the number of single-crewed responses rose from 19 in 2014-15 to 32 the following year – and climbed again to 38 in 2016-17.
In Arrochar there were 34 single-crewed responses in 2014-15, increasing to 57 in 2015-16; however, that number dropped to 31 in 2016-17.
At the Vale of Leven there were 23 such responses in 2014-15 and the same again in 2016-17 – but in the year in between the number increased to 38.
Ms Baillie said: “Not only does this put people’s lives at risk, it increases the pressure on our over-worked and under-resourced local ambulance staff.
“Local ambulance and NHS services are paying the price of the SNP’s obsession with independence at all costs. It’s time for the SNP to drop the threat of another divisive referendum and finally get a grip of the problems in our NHS.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The number of instances of single crewing remains extremely low in comparison with the actual number of shifts across Scotland, taking into account the patterns of greatest demand for the Service.
“We continue to work with the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) to reduce single crewing across Scotland.
“We have invested an extra £11.4 million in the SAS for 2016/17, which will include the recruitment of 200 extra paramedics as part of our commitment for 1,000 more trained paramedics over the next five years.
“Despite increasing levels of demand, our crews are saving the lives of more patients than ever before.”
A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesperson added: “Ambulances are not routinely single-crewed other than in exceptional circumstances, such as unplanned staff absences.
“Where single-crewed ambulances do attend incidents they are tasked appropriately and backed up as necessary to ensure patient and staff safety.”