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The Scottish Ambulance Service will receive baseline funding of £259.9 million in this financial year, which is an increase of £9.2 million on the previous year’s amount.
To support the Scottish Ambulance Service strategy for patient treatment to be delivered out of hospital where it is safe to do so, investment totalling around £24.6 million has been made since 2016-17.
Last year’s figures showed that Aberdeenshire areas such as Turriff and the Mearns suffer some of the worst response times, with averages of 18 and 15 minutes respectively—well outwith the target of eight minutes. A recent report by Unison said that Scottish Ambulance Service staff are being overworked and patients are being put at risk by Scottish Government underfunding. Does the cabinet secretary agree that that is unacceptable? How does she propose to improve emergency response times in rural areas of north-east Scotland?
I do not accept the central premise that our Scottish Ambulance Service is underfunded. I am sure that Mr Chapman has familiarised himself with the strategy, which now has significant external evidence from across the United Kingdom to show that it remains a valid model and that implementation is on track.
In the next year, the Scottish Ambulance Service will concentrate on the further development of its clinical response model, including improvements to lower-acuity calls, development of its workforce, continued investment in fleet, equipment and new technology and quality improvement work. All of that is designed to improve response times, particularly in relation to lower-acuity calls.
On the recent Unison survey, we take such matters very seriously, as does the Scottish Ambulance Service. The Ambulance Service is involved, with Unison, in the demand and capacity implementation group, which is looking at precisely the issues that Mr Chapman addresses. We will continue to take those matters seriously and to make progress with our Ambulance Service.
Firefighters in two areas of my constituency, Turriff and Maud, participated in the trial scheme that was launched in 2015, which saw specially trained firefighters deployed to administer vital cardiopulmonary resuscitation or to use a defibrillator to try to save people who were experiencing cardiac arrest. I have spoken to firefighters in Turriff who participated in the trial, and they are very keen to use their skills. Can the cabinet secretary advise Parliament if and when that approach will be rolled out?
The primary aim of the out-of-hospital cardiac arrest co-response trials is to reduce response times to incidents, with the longer-term aim of improving patient outcomes. The trials involved 18 stations, which responded to 276 incidents. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service made 83 potential life-saving interventions, with 28 positive results. Given those outcomes, I think that we can consider the trials to have been success. I am keen to see that work being rolled out.
However, there are on-going discussions and negotiations with the Fire Brigades Union and management in relation to the remodelling of the firefighter role. While those discussions are under way, the involvement of the Fire and Rescue Service in such work has been paused.