Thousands of homes 'too dangerous for ambulances without police back-up'

Nearly 4,500 properties across Scotland have been subjected to the Scottish Ambulance Service’s 'red flag' policy.

Thousands of homes across Scotland have been declared “too dangerous” for ambulance crews to attend without police back-up.

Nearly 4,500 properties across the country have been subjected to the Scottish Ambulance Service’s “red flag” policy.

Paramedics are not permitted to enter those addresses unless officers are also present or a further risk assessment is carried out, even in the event of a medical emergency, because of previous violent incidents at the home or business.

A Freedom of Information request by justice and social affairs publication 1919 Magazine revealed that Edinburgh’s EH postcode, which also covers most of the Lothian region, has the most red-flagged addresses with 1,122 properties on the list.

In Greater Glasgow there are 885 addresses, with a further 532 across Ayrshire.

The database of 4,418 addresses constantly changes and is updated depending on new incidents and previous occupants of troublesome properties moving on, making historical comparisons difficult.

However, back in 2018, it was reported there were only around 2,500 such addresses.

The full data by postcode is available here.

Amid growing concerns about Police Scotland’s resourcing, the Scottish Police Federation warned that it will be “physically impossible to go to everything” in the near future.

Brian Jones, vice chair of the Scottish Police Federation, said: “We fully understand why ambulance crews won’t go to places if they think they’re going to be attacked.

“But the police are the service of last resort – we have no choice in the matter.

“In the near future there will come a point when a decision will have to be made about what we can’t go to, because it will be physically impossible to go to everything.

“These incidents just show how society is changing – and it is just another thing which is placing a demand on resource policing when things are getting tighter.”

The EH1 postcode, covering the centre of the capital, has the most problem addresses with 173 homes or businesses listed.

That is followed by Ayrshire’s KA1 postcode (134), which covers much of Kilmarnock and villages to the south of the town.

North Edinburgh’s EH4 zone has the third most (125), Paisley’s PA1 is in fourth (112) while EH5 – also covering northern parts of Edinburgh – came fifth (105).  

Ian Murray, Scottish Labour MP for Edinburgh South, said: “Ambulance crews on the frontline are trying to save lives and their own safety should never be put at risk.

“It’s deeply troubling that so many addresses in Edinburgh have been red flagged, but it is of course vital that paramedics are protected.”

Miles Briggs, Scottish Conservative MSP for the Lothians, said: “Paramedics have a hard enough job without being faced with the threat of violence.

“It’s depressing to see so many homes right across the country where it simply isn’t safe for an ambulance crew to go.

“It’s also worrying for Edinburgh which has such a high proportion of these properties. These dangerous individuals have absolutely no respect for our brave emergency workers.

“What’s worse, their behaviour puts a strain not just on paramedics but on the police too who have to be on the scene whenever they or someone in their home requires help.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Ambulance Service said its staff should not fear for their safety when working, adding that measures have been put in place to help protect them while they do their job.

The spokesperson added: “Individual addresses where previous incidents have occurred are automatically flagged to our crews, allowing staff to undertake dynamic risk assessments or if required request additional support. It is not correct to say that individual addresses are too dangerous or ‘no-go areas’.

“Our staff are trained in assessing risk and managing aggression so that they can make a sensible decision based on the circumstances. Getting to the sickest patients is always our priority.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Should any request for assistance be received from SAS with regard to attending addresses we will respond as appropriate. We will continue to support our emergency service colleagues as required.”

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