Ambulance staffing shortages left the emergency service without the required number of workers for more than one in 10 shifts during the summer months, according to Scottish Ambulance Service statistics.
A freedom of information request by the Scottish Liberal Democrats found that the ambulance service was more than 20,000 staff hours short in each of July, August and September – with just 88%, 88.9% and 88.4% of the monthly shifts having the required staffing levels.
Figures for the total hours of staffing required by the Scottish Ambulance Service compared to those actually worked reveal that 92% of shifts were fully staffed in the first 10 months of 2021 where data was available.
It is down from 94.6% in the comparable months of 2020.
Party leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has now called for the government to apologise to the ambulance staff and patients for the decline.
He said: “These figures are a horror for patients and staff alike.
“The ambulance service is very clear about the number of staff it needs to respond to calls but the proportion of shifts that it has been able to fill is heading steadily downwards.
“Week after week I have pressed the government about the crisis in emergency care and week after week the government respond by blaming the pandemic.
“Yet the former chief executive of NHS Scotland said this crisis has been years in the making and the pandemic has only hastened the date.
“It must be hellish for call handlers taking repeat calls asking when an ambulance will be there. Paramedics know that behind the doors they knock are people who have been waiting in pain for hours.
“It isn’t the fault of the staff who’ve been issuing warnings for years. It’s the fault of consecutive SNP health secretaries who didn’t listen to them.
“Humza Yousaf must apologise and fix it before any more families lose loved ones because help couldn’t arrive in time.
“It is why Scottish Liberal Democrats have proposed an urgent new Burnout Prevention Strategy to protect everyone on the front line this winter. Staff and the public also deserve an inquiry into avoidable deaths connected to the emergency care crisis.”