Ambulances (Emergency Calls)

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:01 pm on 8th March 2007.

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Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party 12:01 pm, 8th March 2007

To ask the First Minister what plans the Scottish Executive has to review the management of 999 emergency calls for ambulances. (S2F-2775)

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

There are no plans for a review of the management of 999 emergency calls for ambulances.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

I put on record my admiration for the dedication of ambulance crews. Crew members and patients have contacted me to express concerns. A crewman from the Scottish Borders shed light on why ambulance crews in the area are taking longer to answer calls, when he said:

"It is definitely a management issue. Crews are being taken from the Borders up to Edinburgh to work. It doesn't seem to matter what is being done on your part, or the press. The service still continues to send crews out of their area."

In the light of a fairly recent case in the Borders that almost had very bad consequences, does the First Minister have an idea of the scale of the problem in Scotland? If he does not, are there grounds for an independent review or inquiry to determine the scale of the problem?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

I prefer to improve the service, which is precisely what we have been doing. The average response time for ambulances in Scotland has come down to 8.4 minutes—the fastest it has ever been in Scotland. I give credit to the Scottish Ambulance Service. It would be possible for this Government to claim some of that credit by pointing to the increased resources for the service, because some 412 additional paramedics and technicians have entered the service since 2002. However, I want to give the credit to the people who work hard to ensure that ambulance services are available.

I also pay tribute to the people who work in the service in the Borders and in Dumfries and Galloway, where ambulance response times have been reduced again this year and are almost at the Scottish average, despite the rural nature of the area. Those people are doing a terrific job. Christine Grahame's constant attempts to run them down are unbecoming of her.