Humza Yousaf confirms military and fire service to provide assistance to Scotland's under pressure ambulance service
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has confirmed that members of the armed forces and the fire brigade will be redeployed to assist with the country’s beleaguered ambulance service.
The minister told MSPs he recognised that “some people are not receiving the standard of service that they should be getting, or indeed the standard of service the ambulance service, or indeed the Scottish Government wants.”
There have been reports over the last week of patients waiting hours for an ambulance to arrive after a 999 call, including one where a man died after a 40-hour wait.
After that was raised by opposition politicians during last week's First Minister's questions, the Scottish Government lodged a request for assistance with the Ministry of Defence.
Yousaf told MSPs today that more than 100 military personnel – 88 drivers and 15 support staff – would start work this weekend.
He also said there would be help from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in the form of volunteer drivers, as well as the British Red Cross and “private transport companies where clinically appropriate”.
Yousaf said around 100 2nd-year paramedic students would be asked to help in ambulance control rooms.
He told MSPs: “The last 18 months have been a time of unprecedented pressure and the NHS has faced the biggest challenge of its 73 year history. The Scottish Ambulance Service is the very heartbeat of an NHS. It has a unique role in engaging with all parts of the health and social care system across the whole of Scotland, 24 hours, seven days a week.
“I would like to take the opportunity once again, as I'm sure other members will, to thank all of our hard working ambulance service staff for the work that they're doing in such difficult circumstances.
“And while I understand those calling an ambulance are often in considerable distress, I hope we can all agree that our ambulance colleagues deserve to be treated with the utmost respect.”
Last month, ambulance crews responded to 10,733 immediate life threatening incidents, 20.7 per cent of incidents attended that month, compared to 5,788, around 10.6% of incidents in August 2018.
This, Yousaf said, “clearly shows us a significant increase of acuity and presentation to the service.”
However, the health secretary was criticised by the Presiding Officer after details of the statement were given to the Daily Record ahead of his speech to Parliament.
The Conservatives suggested Yousaf may have broken the ministerial code.
Stephen Kerr, the Tory Chief Whip raised a point of order, reminding the chamber that paragraph 3.5 of the Scottish ministerial code said when “Parliament is meeting ministers should ensure that important announcements of government policy are made in the first instance to the Parliament.”
Presiding Officer Alison Johnson said she would “certainly look further into this matter.“
Speaking in Holyrood, she said: "I consider this a very serious matter.
"Given that I can't be sure that all members will have seen this coverage, I will, in this instance, allow the statement to be made.
"But if there are similar instances in future, I reserve the right not to allow the minister to deliver the statement but to move straight to questions from members."
Responding, Yousaf said: "Presiding Officer, as I hope you will appreciate, it was never my intention to cause you or indeed this chamber any issues when speaking to the media ahead of my statement today.
"Let me offer an apology to you but also the chamber if issues were caused and my assurance, of course, that we will take the necessary steps to ensure that this does not happen again in the future."