Paramedics need police escorts to enter thousands of Scottish homes

13 July 2018, 07:10

Ambulance generic

Paramedics are unable to enter more than 2,500 homes in Scotland without a police officer due to safety fears.

The Scottish Ambulance Service has red-flagged 2,557 addresses, meaning ambulance crews can only attend in response to a 999 call with police back-up.

The majority of the red-flagged addresses are in and around Glasgow, with 820 in the G postcode area.

Edinburgh and the Lothians has the next highest at 469, followed by 216 in Lanarkshire and 191 in Ayrshire.

In Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, 169 addresses require police to allow paramedics safe entry, as do 150 in Fife.

The ambulance service revealed the figures following a Scottish Conservative Freedom of Information request.

The party's public health spokeswoman Annie Wells said the "shocking" figures highlight the need for more action to keep ambulance crews safe.

She said: "No paramedic should ever fear for their own wellbeing, especially when they are dedicating their lives to helping others.

"We clearly need to do more to keep them safe, which means tough action from the courts when those assaulting, or threatening to assault, ambulance workers are caught.

"That's the least we could do to ensure these brave and indispensable employees can go about their work safely and effectively."

Under legislation to protect emergency workers, anyone convicted can face up to a year behind bars, a £10,000 fine, or both.

Earlier this year the Government revealed 6,509 common assaults were recorded on police, fire and ambulance workers across Scotland in 2016/17, equivalent to more than 17 per day.

A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesman said: "Getting to the sickest patients will always be our priority, regardless of whether the police are in attendance - our staff are trained in assessing risk and managing aggression so that they can make a sensible decision based on the circumstances.

"Our staff should not fear for their safety when working, which is why we have introduced a range of measures to help protect them - individual addresses where staff have previously faced violence or threatening behaviour are automatically flagged to our crews, who can then request additional support, only if required.

"We keep these individual addresses under review to ensure our system is up-to-date."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We value the high-quality care that Scottish Ambulance Service staff provide, often under challenging and physically demanding circumstances.

"The Emergency Workers Act includes penalties of up to 12 months imprisonment, a £10,000 fine, or both, to be imposed following conviction for offences against ambulance staff and we extended this legislation in 2008 to include health professionals working in the community. For more serious attacks, other offences such as assault can be used which mean offenders can face penalties up to life imprisonment.

"All workers deserve protection from abuse and violence. Scotland's justice system provides protection for workers under common laws of assault, threatening and abusive behaviour and breach of the peace and our independent courts are best placed to consider sentencing in any given case taking into account the full circumstances of a case."