Crash a day for ambulance service


By Paul Thornton

SCOTTISH ambulances were involved in a crash almost every day of last year on average, it has been revealed.

Vehicles run by the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) were involved in 330 collisions over the 12 month period.

Of the smashes, 67 happened while an ambulance was responding to a 999 call.

Despite the high accident rate, only one driver has been suspended over a smash, according to figures released through the Freedom of Information Act.

In 2008 accident and emergency vehicles for the SAS were involved in 160 bumps while the smaller paramedic response units accounted for 34.

Patient transporters – which shuttle the sick and infirm to and from treatment centres – were also involved in 102 accidents.

Other vehicles added a further 34 crashes to the total.

Of all the crashes, 67 occurred while the vehicle was responding to an emergency call, while 59 happened during ‘blue light’ responses.

The SAS said that one driver had been suspended during last year as the result of a collision but none of their staff had a driving conviction recorded as a result.

Scottish Conservative health spokeswoman, Mary Scanlon, said the accidents were the result of too much emphasis being placed on time targets.

Miss Scanlon said: “There is tremendous pressure on the SAS and on their drivers to reach an emergency call within eight minutes.

“The target of reaching 75 per cent of 999 calls in eight minutes was achieved last year but it puts tremendous pressure on the drivers who are exceptionally well trained.

“But there is no recognition of the success of the treatment the paramedics are giving.”

The Highlands and Islands MSP said patients – not sweeping targets – need to come first.

She said: “More emphasis should be placed on the treatment given to the patient rather than simply counting the minutes.

“Obviously the time taken is important but it is only one of several elements.”

A spokesman for the SAS said the rate of accidents was very small when compared to the number of calls the service responds to.

He said: “We are talking about 67 accidents out of almost half-a-million emergency responses.

“Our crews go through extensive driver training and when taken in context it is fortunately still a relatively small number – although we would always like it to be smaller.”

Margaret Watt, Chairperson of the Scotland Patient Association said that while people appreciate the efforts of paramedics, they should not put their own lives at risk.

She said: “The SAS provide an excellent service and I could imagine that there could be accidents from time to time but I’m surprised it is almost one every day.

“Patients do appreciate that they get their in time and when there is an accident you see them going through red lights to get to the patient in time.

“But what we have to bear in mind is that they have their own lives to look-out for as well.

“We would say thank you, but don’t put your own life on the line.”

The information was obtained via a Freedom of Information request.