Ambulance services on life support for the festive period

The union representing Scottish ambulance workers warned today that lives are being put in danger due to poor planning and dangerously low staffing levels.

UNISON, Scotland’s biggest health service trade union, said that ambulance technicians and paramedics are repeatedly being asked to work excessively long hours without breaks.

Scottish Ambulance Service UNISON Branch Secretary, Stevie Gilroy, said that despite the recurring upsurge in incidents and accidents resulting in ‘999’ calls at this time of year there isn’t a mirrored increase in crews or vehicles on the ground.

Stevie said: “Only last week we saw at one point what was close to a 50% increase in calls, but no additional resources. This left our members struggling to respond. Respond they did, but you have to worry at what cost.

“Our members were being forced to do ten or eleven hours nonstop without a break, despite identifying they were at breaking point.

“The response given to our members was not to take fifteen minutes. Instead they were told, ‘we can’t sign you off for a break. If you can’t continue you will have to call in sick.’ A response that in UNISON’s view is completely unacceptable.”

Liam Boylan, Branch Chair, said: “Forcing people to work ten or eleven hours without a break or a meal is clearly going to have a negative impact on both the individual’s ability to do a job well and their decision making.

“When you’re constantly doing this to ambulance technicians and paramedics, then it’s a recipe for disaster. Our members are being left with the choice of continuing tired and fatigued – more likely to have an accident or make a wrong decision – or to go off sick, adding to the pressure colleagues are facing.”

Stevie Gilroy added: “It’s clear that the plans in place are inadequate. UNISON is calling for appropriate staffing levels to meet the increased demand at this and other peak times for the safety of both the public and our members.”