SCOTTISH police have accused the ambulance service of leaving officers to deal with medical emergencies.
The complaint follows an incident this week in which police gave CPR to a man and took him to hospital because an ambulance would have taken 20 minutes to arrive.
The Scottish Police Federation (SPF), which represents rank and file officers, claims the incident in Greenock is one of a number of emergencies in which they have had to step in for paramedics.
The Scottish Ambulance Service has admitted all its local crews were busy at the time of the call last Wednesday. But insiders said the emergency was not initially regarded as life-threatening.
A police source said: “The ambulance service were called to a guy taking an overdose but said they weren’t going because they didn’t know what flat it was.
“The officers were shouting for an ambulance, but were told it was at least 20 minutes because of a shift changeover.
“He was in and out of consciousness and they were doing CPR in the back of the van getting him to hospital – they thought he was going to die.”
Andrew MacDonald, chairman of the SPF, said: “It’s is utterly unacceptable for police officers to be carrying out the duties of the ambulance service.
“Had it not been for the quick thinking and adaptability of the officers involved, this could have had a different and tragic outcome.”
A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “At the time of the call, all our local crews were already attending to other incidents in the area and we dispatched the nearest available ambulance to the incident.”
“We work closely with Police Scotland control, and at busy times embed Scottish Ambulance Service staff in their control to make sure we get the right resource to match patient need.
“We respond to Police Scotland calls with equal priority to all other 999 calls based on the information we receive about how unwell the patient is. Often additional information is forthcoming and, as in this case, this can result in the call being upgraded to a higher response category.”
An ambulance service source said that at first the address was unknown, and the call was not classed as being immediately life-threatening based on the information available.
The incident was then upgraded to an emergency following a second call and an ambulance was allocated to attend immediately.
Assistant Chief Constable, John Hawkins said: “Police Scotland notes the comments from The Scottish Police Federation and will continue to work with the Scottish Ambulance Service, as well as other emergency services, to improve the safety and wellbeing of people, places and communities in Scotland.”