Taxis in Scotland will be used to transport patients in non-threatening conditions to hospitals in a bid to ease NHS Scotland’s ambulance crisis it has been announced.
As part of a new £20m emergency plan announced by the Scottish Health Secretary on Tuesday, 225 members of the Armed Forces will also be used to assist the struggling Scottish Ambulance Service.
According to sources, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, acknowledged the challenges ahead, saying: “I believe that this winter will be the hardest that the NHS has faced in the memory of any of us.”
Humza Yousef, Scottish Health Secretary, told Scottish Parliament yesterday: “The assistance will consist mainly of the provision of 88 drivers to free up our paramedics and technicians to focus solely on providing patients with the best clinical care.
“Fifteen support staff are also being requested, which means that there will be support in the form of 103 military personnel.
"There are still authorisation processes to go through, but we do not envisage any challenges with gaining the required approval. All going well, some of those military personnel will be ready to be deployed and driving ambulances this weekend. As always, my thanks go to the Army for its responsiveness.
“I have also reached out to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, and I am glad to say that, in typical fashion, it has risen to our call. It will scale up the Ambulance Service’s access to volunteer firefighters for driving, and that will now also include full-time firefighters. Again, that is with a view to providing more valuable paramedic and technician time on the front line.
“The immediate assistance is not being sought only from the wider public sector. We have also brought in support from the British Red Cross, as well as private contractors such as taxi companies, to help with some of the Ambulance Service’s work where no emergency ambulance is required.
“I make it absolutely clear that, if someone is in critical or life-threatening need, they will be taken to hospital in an ambulance, if one is requested. Alternative transport arrangements are for patients with low acuity. Patient safety will, of course, remain our number 1 priority.”
The latest funding comes in addition to £20m already announced as part of the NHS Recovery Plan. It is hoped that investment will deliver a net increase of almost 300 ambulance service staff by April 2022.