THE police are routinely being forced to drive injured people to Scotland’s hospitals because of the crisis in the ambulance service, the officers’ union has claimed.

The Scottish Police Federation (SPF) said around 30 patients were driven to hospital in police cars or vans in recent months, and the problem was getting worse.

Opposition parties said it showed a service “on its knees”.

In one recent case, the police took an elderly man found on the pavement with a leg injury to hospital after he waited almost six hours and his foot turned black.

He went in a van that proved “extremely uncomfortable for him”.
Officers also took a male suicide attempt who started passing out after an overdose and a male assault victim bleeding from the inner ear because of a lack of ambulances.

The SPF blamed long waits for paramedics forcing officers to act as the emergency service of last resort.

A spokesman said: “It’s a burden that somebody with the appropriate medical training and experience should be doing. These are medical incidents, they’re not policing incidents or criminal activity. Officers are being left to fill gaps.” 

The Scottish Ambulance Service, which is currently relying on the army to help with delays caused by overcroded A&Es, strongly denied it expected officers to assist with 999 calls or transport patients.

The issue is reported in the social affairs magazine 1919.

SPF Health and safety spokesman Gordon Forsyth said: “Cops are taking people to hospital in the back of police cars simply because the ambulance is going to be hours, or there isn't anybody suitable to leave the person with and stand down.

“I’ve got a list of 30-odd examples, various things where the cops have been sent to calls because an ambulance hasn't been available, or having to wait for a significant period of time for an ambulance to get there.” 

He added: “It goes back to the question of where does policing responsibility stop and start. 

“The last thing that will cross any officer’s mind would be to go to a job where somebody is feeling unwell or has cut themselves or is requiring some kind of medical intervention and leave that person, saying ‘Right, the ambulance is going to be four hours, so we’ll see you later, either wait for the ambulance or get yourself up to the hospital’. 

“If something then happens to that person that’s when the inevitable enquiry will start and the response of that officer will be dissected and questioned. 

“Officers absolutely feel morally obliged to get that person the medical support they need or at the very least leave them in the care of a responsible person who will ensure that they get the care required.

“I think there are concerns that if you’re conveying someone to hospital, is it the right thing to do, to take somebody in the back of a vehicle that’s not fitted out to carry casualties to the hospital in any other circumstance other than is it a life-threatening situation?

“By not conveying them to hospital will this person die? That’s the scenario that officers should be considering. But there’s still a number of concerns about that. 

“While the first aid training officers undertake has improved significantly recently, it is still very basic and does not provide sufficient clinical knowledge to make what could be a life changing or indeed life ending decision.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "Police officers will be the first to tell you they will do their best but simply aren’t equipped or trained for this job. 

"They shouldn’t have shifts consumed by serious medical incidents.

“The pressure on emergency care is painfully clear, with long waits, the deployment of the military and now police officers saying they have had to provide cover too. 

“It is a symptom of a service on its knees because SNP ministers ignored the warnings.”

Tory MSP Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: “I applaud our brave police officers for stepping up to offer support, but it highlights an ambulance service that is still at complete breaking point.

“We also cannot have vital police work being disrupted as a result of our ambulance service not having the resources they require.”

The Ambulance Service said police were only asked to attend cardiac arrests in the Highlands as a first response, with medical backup.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “Police officers are only requested to attend cardiac arrest calls as a first response in the north of Scotland and they are immediately backed up by an ambulance resource.

“This is line with pre-pandemic co-responding agreements. In no other situation would police officers attend ambulance 999 calls or be asked to transport patients to hospital.”