Page last updated at 17:30 GMT, Thursday, 22 May 2008 18:30 UK

MSPs express ambulance concerns

Ambulance
Labour raised the prospect of industrial unrest in the service

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has been ordered by MSPs to make a statement to parliament on the Scottish Ambulance Service.

It follows Labour claims that funding cuts have led to crew shortages, possible strikes and dirty ambulances.

Speaking at Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon promised to consider evidence seriously, but said performance in the service was much improved.

MSPs voted for a Lib Dem parliamentary motion calling for the statement.

Labour health spokeswoman Margaret Curran highlighted the issue of switching from ambulances with two crew members to rapid-response vehicles staffed by one person.

She said: "There are serious questions being asked about what the changes to the ambulance service are, why they have been introduced and the actual impact they are having."

If there is concern about these developments the service must increase its efforts in this regard
Nicola Sturgeon
Health Secretary

Raising further concerns during a Holyrood debate, Ms Curran went on: "I am told vacant shifts are not currently being covered because of budgetary restrictions. I am told there are as many as 25 shifts per day short in Glasgow city alone.

"I am told, because staff are under pressure, ambulances are not being properly cleaned, which could give rise to infection. And I am told we have the prospect of industrial unrest."

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Ross Finnie claimed there were "serious public misgivings" about aspects of the ambulance service, while the Tories also called for a full debate on the issue.

He said the British Medical Association was unhappy about the number of single-manned emergency call-outs.

But Ms Sturgeon said there was "no doubt" that improvements were linked to the decision taken last November to expand the use of rapid-response vehicles.

She said: "This approach is intended to improve response times, which are of the utmost importance to patients, to reduce unnecessary patient journeys and improve overall experience.

"It will also lead to a net increase in the number of emergency vehicles in the ambulance service fleet."

"If there is concern about these developments the service must increase its efforts in this regard and I will ensure that it does so."


SEE ALSO
Ambulance workers 'could strike'
08 May 08 |  Highlands and Islands
Row over ambulance complaint rise
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Ambulance service in 25m boost
10 Mar 08 |  Scotland
Police to review accident figures
10 Mar 08 |  Scotland
MSPs consider ambulance demands
16 Jan 08 |  Tayside and Central
Ambulance call-out figures soar
05 Mar 07 |  Health
More patients face ambulance wait
09 Feb 07 |  Scotland

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