Ambulance teams still facing single-crew shifts despite pledge

Nicola Sturgeon previously outlawed 'single-crewing' unless in 'exceptional circumstances'.

Over 15,000 ‘single-crew’ Scottish ambulance shifts despite Government ‘exceptional circumstances’ pledge STV News

Over 15,000 “single crew” ambulance callouts have been made in the last five years despite a Scottish Government pledge to outlaw the practice.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon asked the Scottish Ambulance Service to ban all instances of emergency responders attending incidents on their own while health secretary in 2008.

But a freedom of information (FOI) request by Scottish Labour found 1,888 records of “single-crewing” in the nine months between January and October alone last year.

The Scottish Government said the practice is not routine and only accounts for a small percentage of all shifts.

Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said the practice “put both patients and paramedics at risk” as she urged a Holyrood-backed clampdown.

“Despite years of promises, it is clear that the SNP has broken its pledge to end the use of single-crewing,” she said.

“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 simply cannot have more lives endangered as the winter crisis bites. It’s time to act now and end single-crewing for good.”

Sturgeon previously said single-crewing should only occur in “exceptional circumstances,” but 15,600 shifts were found to have taken place between October 2017 and 2022.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said that only accounted for 1.72% of ambulance shifts in the five months between June and November, adding they were working to reduce the need for single-crewing.

They added: “Ambulances are not routinely singled-crewed.

“Ambulances are single-crewed only in exceptional circumstances, such as short-notice staff absences or a significant increase in demand.

“We continue to support the service to reduce instances of single-crewing. Our continued increased investment has seen a record 540 additional staff join the service since 2021, with further recruitment under way.”

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