Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur will lead a debate in the Scottish Parliament tomorrow, calling again on the Scottish Government to provide bursary support to student paramedics.
Mr McArthur will use the debate to highlight the capacity issues in relation to local land ambulance cover in Orkney to illustrate the need for Ministers to develop a reliable ‘pipeline’ of paramedics into the sector.
Student paramedics are now required as part of their training to undertake around 2,500 hours of shift work, similar to student nurses and midwives. Unlike the latter, however, student paramedics are not eligible for bursary support, only loans that are repayable and often inadequate to cover living costs. This is despite Ministers acknowledging the critical workforce challenges currently facing the sector.
Mr McArthur will use the debate to highlight the fact that the entire Orkney mainland and linked south isles are covered by a single land ambulance, save for a few hours on a Friday and Saturday evening. The Scottish Government confirmed last year this led to 168 occasions where emergency calls in Orkney were left waiting due to the ambulance being on another call.
Commenting ahead of the debate, Mr McArthur said:
“The pandemic has taught us all that life is fragile, and good health cannot be taken for granted. We are fortunate in being able to rely on a committed and skilled healthcare workforce, trained and ready to pick up the pieces of whatever life throws at us.
“That workforce is not being treated fairly by the Scottish Government. In return for a commitment by student paramedics to undertake thousands of hours of unpaid work as part of their training, SNP Ministers seem happy to leave many of them on the breadline.
“That is not the way to encourage young people into a sector that is crying out for new recruits. The Scottish Government has put paramedics on their occupational shortage list, but their approach to student funding will only make matters worse.
“The Scottish Government now need to step up, just as paramedic students have during the course of this pandemic. They need to pay student paramedics.”
Commenting on the situation in Orkney, Mr McArthur added:
“In Orkney, the service is in the process of recruiting but is clear that this is only the first phase and that more needs to be done.
“At present, one ambulance crew covers the whole of the mainland save for a few shifts at the weekend. This is causing real difficulties for existing ambulance staff, as well as on-call GPs. The situation is not sustainable and needs to be addressed.
“Again, Scottish Ministers must recognise the risks posed by the current situation and take urgent steps to ensure Orkney has the land ambulance capacity it needs.”