Ambulance figures are not adding up says MSP

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An MSP has been left confused by a Freedom of Information reply from ambulance chiefs which shows more accident and emergency vehicles at Scottish stations than are actually in operation.

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, originally lodged a Parliamentary Question asking the Scottish Government how many Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) emergency ambulances and patient transport vehicles were in operation, also broken down by the number based at each ambulance station.

Health Secretary Shona Robison gave general figures saying there were 1,455 vehicles in operation across Scotland, including 483 accident and emergency vehicles and 486 patient transport vehicles.

However, Ms Robison said SAS would provide more detailed information about the number based at each station.

“When I received figures from the ambulance service (FOI request) they looked remarkably good and I was impressed,” said Mrs Grant.

“Inverness, for instance, was said to have 11 accident and emergency vehicles and nine for patient transport. No need for concern here then!

However the confusion started when Mrs Grant became aware that the GMB union had publicised concerns that there were only two dedicated accident and emergency vehicles for Inverness, plus a third “urgent tier” vehicle for doctors in emergency admissions.

There’s also another spare ambulance fully kitted out for any additional requirements i.e. for football matches or music festivals.

She added: “The gap in the figures was extremely worrying and smelt very strongly of, at best, a fudge from the ambulance service.”

Mrs Grant then looked in detail at the response from SAS and discovered that it had included ‘operational and maintenance spares’.

Also detailed in the FOI figures is Barra, listed as having two ambulance, when there is only crew there at any one time.

Stornoway is listed as having 4 ambulances, but GMB figures say this is actually 1 and Daliburgh is listed as having 2 ambulances when the GMB figures say this is only 1.

John Marr, branch secretary for the GMB Scotland, said: “We were shocked to see the results from the FOI.

“As far as our members, and the public, say, the SAS is under resourced.

“We ask the Scottish Government to fund the service to provide the service the Scottish people deserve.”

When asked about the discrepancy by the Gazette this week a Scottish Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We supplied direct answers to the questions we were asked through the Freedom of Information request and the data issued in response to each question was correct.

“We offered Ms Grant a meeting in order to discuss the data in detail, explain the figures and if required, give more information to help her further, so it is disappointing that this statement has been issued before such a meeting has even taken place.”

The issue of better resourcing for the Ambulance Service is further highlighted this week as SAS reported a big increase in Hogmanay call outs.

A statement from them detailed: “The Service has experienced a big increase in demand over Hogmanay, with our Control Centres receiving 2,565 calls between 7pm on 31st December and 7am on 1st January. This is an increase of 38.4% compared to the same time last year.

“Between midnight and 7am there was a 45% increase in calls compared to the same time last year. During this period our call takes answered 1,879 calls, an increase of 583 calls.

“Additional call handlers, dispatchers, ambulance crews and support staff were on duty to deal with the high levels of demand that always make Hogmanay one of the busiest nights of the year.”

Mrs Grant has again contacted SAS Chief Executive, Pauline Howie, stressing her concern at the figures and asking for them to be reconfigured, separating the ‘operational and maintenance spares’ from the ambulances that are actually in operation, so the public get a realistic picture of what is actually happening on the ground in the service.