The Scottish Government has provided £50 million above baseline funding to support the Scottish Ambulance Service this year. That investment supports on-going work to recruit 317 front-line staff, to help to increase capacity to respond to emergencies. That includes 18 additional clinicians in the integrated clinical hub who, through additional triage, can offer patients alternative treatment routes, and thereby reduce the number of hospital admissions.
To support the retention of staff, the Scottish Government invested £568 million in the national health service agenda for change 2023-24 pay deal, to ensure that NHS Scotland agenda for change staff remain the best paid in the United Kingdom.
The £50 million in funding that was announced in October to support recruitment in the Scottish Ambulance Service is very welcome. That will play an important role in ensuring that the service is prepared for the winter months ahead. Will the cabinet secretary join me in recognising the incredible efforts of our ambulance service, particularly during the busy winter period
? Can he say any more about how that investment will help to support increased demand?
I join Jackie Dunbar in paying tribute to the incredible work that is carried out by our ambulance staff throughout the year, and particularly during the winter months, when we see demand at its peak.
The £50 million in funding that I announced last month will assist the Scottish Ambulance Service to further develop its demand and capacity work, which will help it to continue to build on the additional staff whom it has been recruiting over the past couple of years. As a result of our investment over the past few years, the service has been able to recruit 1,388 additional staff since 2020.
Jackie Dunbar that the Scottish Ambulance Service is working to recruit staff in its ambulance control centres as well as clinicians to work in its integrated clinical hubs, which help to guide patients to the most appropriate community pathway, where that is applicable. That will reduce unnecessary admissions to hospitals and—
The £50 million is welcome. However, a freedom of information request revealed that more than 850,000 hours of overtime was worked by SAS staff between April 2022 and July 2023 at a cost of £24.4 million. Recruiting and onboarding ambulance service staff takes time. Can the cabinet secretary promise our overworked ambulance staff that they will receive better support this winter than they did last winter?
That is why we are providing the ambulance service with additional funding so that it can recruit more staff and provide additional clinical staff in its clinical hubs, who can support paramedics on the ground when they are dealing with patients. The purpose of that funding is to provide additional staff capacity.