PARAMEDICS and ambulance staff are taking more time off due to anxiety, stress and depression, according to new figures.

The Scottish Ambulance Service revealed that the number of ambulance staff signed off due to mental health issues has risen over the last three years.

The figures showed a 28.7% increase from 404 absences in 2016-17, rising to 455 the following year and 520 in 2018-19.

During the first seven months of 2019-20, there were 379 staff signed off due to their mental health – with 648 projected to have been absent if the rate continues as it is until the end of the year.

The Scottish Ambulance Service expressed concern for staff’s mental wellbeing in September, stating: “Absence cases for stress/anxiety/mental health-related conditions have increased, resulting in long-term absence causes which continue to require significant attention.”

The Scottish Tories, who revealed the figures with a freedom of information request, called on the Scottish Government to “step in” and provide those who need it with more support.

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

“Like all of our front-line responders, their welfare and mental well-being is crucially important.”

They added Health Secretary Jeane Freeman is “acutely aware” of the impact of mental health issues, and had met with unions and senior leaders to discuss related problems and “agree on decisive action”.

The spokesperson continued: “We are working to increase capacity and reduce individual workload across the ambulance service – investing almost £900 million over the last four years and committing to training an additional 1000 paramedics over the course of this Parliament.

“This builds on the 17.6% rise in ambulance service staffing over the last decade.”

They added Lifelines Scotland funding is being used to deliver services “in addition to existing sources of support”, including employee assistance, occupational health support, trauma counselling and pastoral care.