ONE in ten student paramedics in Scotland who have been in the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic they have considered suicide because of their deteriorating financial position.

A study of 200 paramedic students across Scotland, found that eight in ten are worried they are going to burn out and are struggling to make ends meet between pay periods.

And over half (57%) say the have considered quitting their courses because of their finances.

Hundreds of student frontline paramedics have been pushing since September, last year for a bursary equal to the £11,000 nurses and midwives in Scotland get saying there is a lack of financial support.

But they say that there has been no intervention despite working full time with the Ambulance Service on placement during the pandemic. It meany many have to take second jobs and others live below the poverty line.


The Pay Student Paramedics group said that the lack of action has caused a "further decline" in the financial and mental well-being of many of those on the course "and has made an already critical situation reach crisis" as 95% are concerned their money will not last long.

The Pay Student Paramedics group say that while the SNP have pledged to introduce a bursary as part of its Scottish Parliament manifesto, the proposal is "not concrete" and does not discuss amounts or timescales.

They say that the bursary needs to be brought in before September, 2021, when the next academic year starts.

The group say the reality for most student paramedics is that they receive no bursary of any kind and take on an average loan of £5500 a year.

This means living on £480 to £540 a month – which for most only covers their rent. The group says this is far below the average £7702 received by someone on Universal Credit in the UK.

Campaigners say there remains no support for paramedics in Scotland despite having been working full time with the Ambulance Service on placement during the pandemic. 

The research which took responses from all five universities that provide the BSc Paramedic Science course including Glasgow Caledonian University and Queen Margaret University, found that 95% were concerned that their money will not last long.

READ MORE: Covid Scotland: Mental health absences among ambulance staff up 150 per cent since 2017

A Pay Student Paramedics group spokesman said a lack of government action since the September has caused a "further decline in the financial and mental wellbeing of many of those on the course". He said this has "made an already critical situation reach crisis as 95% of respondents are concerned their money will not last long".

"It is important paramedic studetns receive appropriate financial support from the Scottish Government so that they can focus on their studies and placements without worrying if they’ll be able to go home to food on the table and a roof over their head," he said.

Rory Maclean, a first year student paramedic at Glasgow Caledonian University said: “This year under the pandemic has been made so much harder by not having a bursary, I’ve only got £200 a month after rent. It’s affected my studying and my mental health to the extent where I’ve had to get therapy to help with the anxiety.”

In January last year it emerged that Scotland’s ambulance service was battling a staff crisis amid evidence that it failed to cover more than 42,000 shifts.

The disclosure, made under freedom of information legislation, provoked anger from opposition politicians who claim the service was under-funded with a potential impact on public safety.

The Scottish Conservatives asked the ambulance service to disclose how many shifts were rostered and filled in each of the last three years. In 2016-17, of 335,168 shifts, 322,054 were filled, with a shortfall of 13,114. In 2017-18, the shortfall was 16,134 and last year it was 13,568.

In January last year,  paramedic students in England and Wales along with radiographers and physiotherapists were among those receiving a £5000 a year maintenance grant from the UK government from September.

Extra payments worth up to £3,000 per academic year will be available for eligible students.

A group spokesman said: The Scottish government have pledged to train many more paramedics in Scotland to fill the shortage and cover the missing hours. This may not be possible though with so many considering leaving the profession before they have even started from a lack of financial support.

"With so many paramedic students calling for help can the Scottish government really continue to ignore and delay putting in place a bursary if not for the many students who are struggling, for the general public who will be affected if there is a vast decrease in not only the number of those partaking in the course but the diversity of the background of those becoming Scotland’s future paramedics."

One student told the researchers: “I left full time employment with the Scottish Ambulance Service to do the BSc course. I had increasing worries and anxiety and money that has impacted my mental health. I have had suicidal thoughts at points during the course when course work, practical classes, placement and having to work to pay my mortgage became too much.”

Another said: “It makes me constantly anxious as I worry about money all the time. My relationship with my partner is under immense strain because of this anxiety as I fear that I’m holding them back in life due to having no money. I feel guilty about having to spend money to eat, so sometimes I go without meals to save money and then feel ill afterwards. I always feel nauseous as I’m always worrying about having no money.”

An SNP spokesperson said: "If re-elected as Scotland's government we will work with the student awards body to implement the paramedic bursary as quickly as is practicable."

The Scottish Ambulance Service was approached for comment.