Paramedic overtime costs increase to five-year high
The Scottish Ambulance Service spent more than £6.3m for staff to work extra shifts
The amount of money paid in overtime to paramedics has hit a five-year high, according to figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives.
The Scottish Ambulance Service spent more than £6.3m paying paramedics to work extra shifts in 2017, the numbers reveal.
The precise figure of £6,361,218 was up more than £670,000 in a year, and is the highest figure in the last five years.
The Tories highlighted that, overall in 2017 - including managers, support staff and technicians - the organisation spent almost £11.8m on overtime payments.
Ambulance chiefs pointed to increasing demand for the service, with a growing and ageing population, while ministers said funding for the organisation is at record levels.
The data was obtained by the Conservatives via Freedom of Information rules.
Scottish Conservative public health spokeswoman Annie Wells said: "Ambulance staff are under huge pressure, and that is increasing according to these figures.
"The fact more than £6m was spent on overtime just for paramedics last year goes to show just how short-staffed the organisation must be."
She added: "Many staff will be willing to do these additional shifts, but from a health and safety perspective, it's not ideal to be relying on this so heavily."
Ms Wells welcomed ongoing work to train a significant number of extra paramedics but added: "Clearly years of under-funding and shambolic workforce planning by the SNP government has contributed to this current unacceptable situation."
"Many staff will be willing to do these additional shifts, but from a health and safety perspective, it's not ideal to be relying on this so heavily."Annie Wells, Scottish Conservatives
A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesman said: "All of our staff do a fantastic job helping patients in communities right across Scotland.
"It is down to their hard work, commitment and professionalism that so many lives are being saved each and every day.
"With a growing and ageing population, demand is rising and our staffing numbers are obviously increasing as a result of this, with 1,000 additional paramedics being trained by 2021."
A Scottish Government spokeswoman responded to the figures by saying that record amounts are being spent on the ambulance service.
She said: "We value the tremendous job our ambulance service staff do in what can be exceptionally challenging circumstances.
"Our ambulance service continues to be one of the best performing services in the UK despite continuous increased demand and servicing some of the most remote parts of the country.
"Funding for the Scottish Ambulance Service has increased to a record high, with more than £235m being invested this year, which has allowed staffing in the ambulance service to increase by almost 25%.
"In the last two years the ambulance service has trained 690 new paramedics in line with our commitment to deliver an additional 1,000 paramedics by 2021."