Absences of ambulance staff due to mental health problems have soared by more than 150 per cent since 2017, new figures show.

A freedom of information request by the Scottish Liberal Democrats revealed the number of working days lost to mental health-related issues in 2020, up to December 16, was 8,356, shared between 562 paramedics, technicians or care assistants.

The figures obtained from the Scottish Ambulance Service show in 2017 the number was 3,288 between 294 members of staff.

The news comes days after the Scottish Parliament voted in favour of a Lib Dem motion to declare a mental health crisis in Scotland.

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Party health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “These figures show the tremendous toll that mental ill health was taking before the pandemic on our brave paramedics, care assistants and technicians.

“As they put themselves on the front line of the pandemic, it is little surprise that 2020 was tougher still for many of them.

“The pandemic radically changed their workload and how they approached each situation.

“Early in the pandemic Scottish Liberal Democrats proposed new 24/7 mental health support for all health and social care staff, and we were pleased to see this go live in July. It is just one example of how we have been working constructively to put recovery first.

“The declaration by the Parliament this week of a mental health crisis was an important moment.

“For the same reason MSPs have declared a climate emergency and a drugs death crisis, Parliament needed to do this to drive change, ramp up services and improve interventions and prevention.

HeraldScotland: Liberal Democrats health spokesman Alex Cole-HamiltonLiberal Democrats health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton

“It should be the platform for the transformation of mental health that Scottish Liberal Democrats have consistently fought for.

“Ambulance staff are among the many workers that we are relying on to respond to both the pandemic and the mental health crisis, but in doing so we need to have a needle-sharp focus on helping them with their own health.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “Our staff work incredibly hard, helping patients and saving lives every day.

“We understand the pressures they face and during the pandemic we’ve increased the range of wellbeing support available to our staff.

“In addition we continue to provide ongoing support and working with our staff we recently launched a new wellbeing strategy.”

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A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We value the tremendous job our ambulance service staff do in what can be exceptionally challenging circumstances.

“Like all of our frontline responders, their welfare and mental wellbeing is crucially important. We are working to increase capacity and reduce individual workload across the Ambulance Service – investing over £1 billion over the last four years and committing to training an additional 1,000 paramedics.

“The Scottish Government is committed to working with NHS boards and health and social care partnerships to provide services to support all staff in these challenging times including a range of wellbeing and psychological support provision.

“In May we launched the national wellbeing hub, which has had over 70,000 users to date, and a national wellbeing helpline for the health and social care workforce, based in NHS 24, has been available since July.”