Some 597 employees of the SAS were off on Wednesday due to either contracting Covid-19 or having to self-isolate. The figure stood at 243 on Boxing Day, and just under 500 at the weekend.
What is SAS doing about this?
A spokeswoman for the service said it had been able to cover more than 95 per cent of accident and emergency shifts due to additional resourcing, and has planned to fill “every shift where possible” through rostered and relief staff, overtime or bank staff.
She added: “To ensure we maintain patient safety, we are already working alongside our partner agencies to protect service delivery and staff welfare.
“Accelerated recruitment through our demand and capacity programme continues and will increase the number of new staff to 566 by March 2022.”
Fire service problems
The Scottish Fire & Rescue Service (SFRS) separately confirmed it had 696 Covid-related absences on Wednesday, up from 479 on Friday last week.
The figure comes as the Fire Brigades Union confirmed similar staff absences had in England left at least one fire station unmanned and several with engines unavailable.
However, Ross Haggart, SFRS deputy chief officer, said: “We have robust contingency plans in place to ensure we can continue to respond to emergencies.
“Staffing and availability of appliances are being closely monitored and managed with dynamic solutions to draw on our resources across Scotland to maintain resilience.”
Health board problems
The crisis facing both the ambulance and fire services is indicative of the huge pressure being felt by the health service across Scotland, with sharp increases in staff absences and warnings of services coming under strain.
While First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement the self-isolation period is being reduced from ten to seven days is expected to ease the pressure on public services facing a staffing crisis, the situation remains acute across the nation’s health boards.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has the most absences by far of any of the country’s health boards. There are 1158 staff off due to Covid-19 related reasons, up from 1066 in the last week of December.
A spokesman for the board said: “We continue to prioritise emergency, trauma and cancer care alongside the increasing Covid admissions. We recognise the increased pressure on both staff and services and are working to ensure support and mitigation as much as possible.
“At all times, the safety and care of our patients is our absolute priority. To help deal with current pressures, we have frequent safety huddles throughout the day, which prioritise the need for staff to be moved to support high priority services.”
NHS 24 said some 279 staff were currently off due to Covid, but stressed that it always increases its staffing during the festive period.
The service added that over the four-day Hogmanay holiday weekend, its 111 service experienced a call demand of nearly 49,000. On Monday, there were just over 15,000 calls, making it one of the service’s busiest ever days.
This article first appeared in our sister title, The Scotsman.