ABSENCES due to mental health problems have risen in excess of 150% among ambulance staff since 2017, new figures indicate.  

A freedom of information request – made by the Scottish LibDems – highlighted that 8356 days were lost to mental health-related issues in 2020, between 562 paramedics, technicians, and care assistants.

In contrast, figures from the Scottish Ambulance Service show that in 2017 the number was 3288 days between 294 members of staff.

This information comes days after the Scottish Parliament voted in favour of a LibDem motion to declare a mental health crisis in Scotland.

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.”

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New 24/7 mental health support for all health and social care staff went live in July.

Cole-Hamilton continued: “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.”

The National: Alex Cole-Hamilton, Credit PA: ExploreAlex Cole-Hamilton, Credit PA: Explore

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.”

In May the Scottish Government launched the national wellbeing hub – which has had over 70,000 users to date.

Additionally, a national wellbeing helpline, based in NHS 24, has been available for health and social care staff since July.

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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 1000 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.”