Nearly 170,000 staff hours lost to mental health absences in ambulance service 

By Bill Heaney

On this year’s 999 Day, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has urged the Scottish Government to support emergency service workers as he revealed new figures that show an increase in mental health related absences among ambulance staff, with absence hours totalling nearly 170,000 between July 2021 and June 2022.

A Freedom of Information request, which is required to drag information out of the secrecy obsessed SNP government,  by Scottish Liberal Democrats found that between July 2021 and June 2022, there were 169,574 mental health related absence hours recorded by ambulance staff.

This represents an increase of 68,559 hours from the previous year, between July 2020 and June 2021, where the number of mental health absence hours totalled 101,015.   

Commenting on the results of the FOI, Mr Cole-Hamilton, right, said: “This 999 Day, I would like to express my thanks for the incredible work done by staff across our emergency services.

“The figures that I am unveiling today show that in many cases they have sacrificed their own health to keep others safe.

“Medics and call handlers know that they do a high-pressure job but that doesn’t mean the government should expect them to constantly go faster and faster. That’s a recipe for a breakdown.

“Soaring staff absences show the heavy toll that this sort of work can take, but the government isn’t doing enough to ease the pressures. As has become typical of their approach to emergency care, the SNP are sticking their fingers in their ears and hoping the problem simply goes away.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats would introduce a burnout prevention strategy to help ease the pressure on staff and introduce an NHS staff assembly to give them an opportunity to shape the future of the service. Sadly, these are both policies which have been voted down or rejected by the SNP/Green coalition. This needs to stop.

“Working for our emergency services requires huge resilience; it’s about time our government acknowledged that by giving staff the support they need.”

Meanwhile, following new statistics showing only 64.2% of patients were seen within 4 hours in A&E departments, and record numbers waiting more than 8 hours (3,553), Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has criticised the SNP for preferring to promote borders with England rather than focus on this crisis in A&E departments.

Only 39.7% of patients were seen within 4 hours in NHS Forth Valley, while only 54.3% were seen in 4 hours in NHS Lanarkshire and only 60.5% in NHS Borders.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has estimated that long waits have contributed to hundreds of avoidable deaths in 2022.

Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Week on week we are seeing record waits get longer and longer in our A&E departments, yet last month the SNP-Green Government voted down an inquiry into avoidable deaths linked to the emergency care crisis.

“Nicola Sturgeon spent all of yesterday pontificating on currency and borders she wants to erect with England. The SNP would rather create a new crisis for Scotland than deal with the one unfolding before our very eyes in A&E. Patients and staff alike are being taken for granted.

“Humza Yousaf is no better than the First Minister. His NHS statement was completely devoid of substance. Patients and staff cannot carry on like this.

“The Health Secretary must drop his opposition to an urgent inquiry into the avoidable deaths linked to the crisis in emergency care. He must also adopt Lib Dem plans for a Burnout Prevention Strategy, which would give staff extra protection, and a Health and Social Care Staff Assembly to put their expertise at the heart of the response to this crisis.”

One comment

  1. Not really a surprise that ambulance staff sickness rates have increased.

    Delivering service in the teeth of a Covid pandemic must have been utterly stressful, and I for one take my hat off to all the hrslthcsre staff who.courageoisly did so much.

    AWith recorded personnel of 5,391 in 2021 and recognising that 169,000 sickness fours equates to about 81 sick staff a week the absence rate is not so high. West Dunbartonshire Council’s absence rate by comparison is hugely higher.

    If course Cole Hamilton’a concerns come across as being driven by political posturing and faux outrage..

    I’m not of course, defending Sturgeon. She played the Covid for all it was worth. And no; her complacent government are not delivering onso many bread and butter issues.

    Maybe Cole Hamilton would do better to criticise the Tories and the utter decline if the UK economic well being.

Leave a Reply