Service Braced for Festive Surge in 999 Calls

 Thursday 19 December 2013

Ambulance crews across Scotland are prepared to respond to around 6,000 extra emergency incidents over the festive season, most of which will involve alcohol.

Last year between 14 December and 1 January the Scottish Ambulance Service responded to almost 29,000 emergency incidents. At what is the busiest time of year for ambulance staff, resources will be increased at peak periods to respond to a 20% 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 also 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 this work does not stop at Christmas. While others are out enjoying their nights out over the festive period, ambulance crews are continuing to work around the clock to respond to 999 calls through all conditions and weather.

“We all know that alcohol misuse is taking its toll on too many people across Scotland, young and old and it is particularly important at this time of year, when people are going on Christmas and hogmanay 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 do a fantastic job of keeping people safe over the festive season and into the winter, yet they have to deal with the added challenges that come with excessive alcohol consumption at this time of year. Ambulance crews deserve respect and appreciation, not the verbal abuse and physical assaults that many of them endure at the busiest time of year for 999 emergency calls.

“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 Scottish Ambulance 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 6.5 minutes.