Service Gears Up For Festive Surge In Emergency Demand

 Tuesday 11 December 2012

Ambulance crews across Scotland will have to deal with a 20% increase in emergency incidents over the festive season, most of which will be alcohol related.

At what is the busiest time of year for The Scottish Ambulance Service, resources will be increased at peak periods to respond to the surge in emergency calls as Christmas and Hogmanay parties get into full swing.

Alcohol is a key factor in assaults on staff and at this time of year crews have to deal with more violent and abusive behaviour than ever. Their safety is paramount and every instance of assault or threatening behaviour will be reported to the police. If any ambulance crews feel that their safety may be compromised, they are instructed to hold near the scene and wait for support from colleagues or the police.

The Service has put in place detailed plans to deal with the challenges that severe weather can bring at this time of year. The emergency ambulance fleet includes over 150 vehicles that are either 4x4s or fitted with automatic snow chains and others are fitted with winter tyres.

Special Operations Response teams will be on hand to provide additional support with specially equipped Land Rovers and six wheeled Polaris vehicles that can operate in difficult terrain.  Normal contingency arrangements with partner agencies such as the Red Cross and Coastguard, who provide additional 4x4 assistance if required, will be in place.

Health Secretary, Alex Neil, said:
“Ambulance crews work incredibly hard to provide the best patient care 365 days a year, and at this, their most challenging time of the year, they play a particularly key role working around the clock to respond to 999 calls through all conditions and weather.
“Alcohol misuse is taking its toll on too many people across Scotland, young and old. Not only does this misuse burden our health service and police, it also costs Scots  an estimated £3.6 billion each year.
“It’s particularly important at this time of year, when people are going on Christmas nights out, that they drink responsibly, keep safe and ensure they do not cause any added burden for our ambulance crews.”

Pauline Howie, Chief Executive, Scottish Ambulance Service, said:
“Our staff work tirelessly to respond to people in need, whatever the weather conditions. They do a fantastic job and it is difficult to understand the motivations of those who abuse or try to obstruct them but alcohol and other substances are usually involved.

“Detailed operational plans are in place to cope with adverse weather and our 4x4 capacity is greater than any previous year.

“As they enjoy festive parties, we would ask people to drink sensibly and wrap up well for the weather. This will help us to focus our ambulances on responding to those people who are in most need of our help.”

The Service is responding to the most serious emergencies faster than ever before and saving more lives. The average response time to a life-threatening emergency is 6.7 minutes. Over the festive season last year emergency ambulance crews responded to over 61,000 incidents.