The recent story in 1919, the Scottish Police and Home Affairs Magazine, has reignited the debate about the role of police officers in society.

For a number of years, the Scottish Police Federation has been concerned about the overwhelming demand on the Scottish Ambulance Service. Concerned for our ambulance colleagues who crew the vehicles but also for the unmet demand that then spills into policing.

For policing is the service of last resort. Where others fail, we have to step in and be the social worker, mechanic, firefighter, medic, psychologist or even undertaker. Our ethos is to do our best for others, an ethos that at times makes us our own worst enemy, as we can’t walk away. We won’t walk away.

So when we deal with somebody in pain, suffering, bleeding or in distress who needs medical attention we will take them to a hospital rather than see them wait six hours for an ambulance. These journeys – often on the floor of vans - are uncomfortable and dangerous but a better option for the patient.

This obviously takes us away from our core role and puts policing under even more pressure. We can’t deliver policing if we are delivering patients.

Most police officers currently get a half a days First Aid training a year that covers the very basics. We don’t have the medical skills or equipment to deal with anything more than the most basic of emergencies. That’s because as a service we’re not designed to do this. A police officer’s statutory duty is to protect life, not save it. This is an important distinction as it focuses our attention on prevention and intervention. But we are humans who care and improving the wellbeing of society is a core duty.

And this crisis is not the fault of the Scottish Ambulance Service, they are under immense resourcing pressures, compounded by an NHS under stress and insatiable public demand.

READ MORE: Scottish police 'forced to drive patients to hospital amid ambulance crisis'

Our officers are becoming more concerned though. They hear radio broadcasts that “ambulance response times are eight hours”- so don’t even bother asking. The number of examples that have been given to the Scottish Police Federation since publication shows that the 30 cases we had gathered were just the tip of the iceberg. They show that police officers are regularly stepping in to assist. So it isn’t helpful or appreciated when Scottish Ambulance Service managers are in denial.

In response to the 1919 article, rather than accepting they couldn’t meet demand, they used wordplay. Whilst, they may indeed not ask police to take people to hospital, when they can’t cope they don’t offer other alternatives either. That’s because they know that once again we’ll step forward as we won’t let people suffer.

David Hamilton, is the Chair of Scottish Police Federation.

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The Scottish Ambulance Service previously commented on claims police were forced to drive patients to hospital here.