Unite Scotland today (16 September) responded to the announcement by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, that the Scottish Government is in discussions with the military in an effort to alleviate the ‘unprecedented pressures’ on the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) stating there are ‘no quick fixes’.

Last week in a Daily Record Exclusive, Unite called for a ‘major incident’ status to be declared at all hospitals with Accident and Emergency Units, where turnaround times exceed 30 minutes. 

The demand has been made by Unite to protect the public who have made 999 calls in the community, amid patient safety concerns due to 6 hours service running times. Unite revealed that it has been made aware of ‘adverse clinical events’ affecting patients across Scotland, and patients having to wait up to 40 hours to receive a hospital bed.

On average, an ambulance response to a 999 call can take between 55 minutes, and 1 hour and 10 minutes, from call to completion. However, ambulances are now missing three 999 calls while located at a hospital waiting for patient handovers.  

Unite has made a list of demands which are needed to protect service users and staff. The demands include:

  • A 30-minute maximum turnaround time from arrival at hospital. This will release paramedics to return to serving Scotland’s sickest people.
  • A nationwide campaign to educate the public on when it is appropriate to call an ambulance and what to expect.
  • Improvement to staff welfare and wellbeing by reducing shift over-runs and properly applying rest periods to reduce fatigue and stress.
  • A flowchart of pathways for the public when they require health and emergency assistance – GP, NHS24, pharmacy, community psychiatric nursing – which may be more appropriate than dialling 999.
  • A requirement for anyone ordering an ambulance on behalf of GPs to be a health care professional, rather than a receptionist to ensure accurate triage.
  • Greater collaborative working between NHS24 and the SAS.
  • Increased support from the SAS to enable ambulance crews to feel comfortable with their clinical decision making when leaving patients safely at home.
  • Empowerment of the SAS by the Scottish Government to say no at source to a request for an ambulance, potentially reducing inappropriate requests.

Jamie McNamee, Unite Convenor at the Scottish Ambulance Service, said: “Unite has stressed that more needs to be done to alleviate the unprecedented pressures on our ambulance services, but there are no quick fixes. The most important element of this is for the Scottish Ambulance Service to declare a ‘major incident’ status at all hospitals with Accident and Emergency Units where turnaround times exceed 30 minutes.

"The news that the First Minister is involved in talks with the military to assist the Scottish Ambulance Service, and indeed the wider health services, is a welcome development. This is something Unite called for, and we are pleased that it is being taken forward because the reality is our paramedics need all the help they can get.”