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Scottish Ambulance Service

The logo of the Scottish Ambulance Service
Map of the five regional divisions within the Scottish Ambulance Service.

The Scottish Ambulance Service (Scottish Gaelic: Seirbheis Charbadan-eiridinn na h-Alba) is part of NHS Scotland, and serves all of Scotland. It is a special health board funded directly by the Health and Social Care Directorates of the Scottish Government.

The two main functions of the trust are the provision of a paramedic-led accident and emergency service to respond to 999 calls and the patient transport service (non-emergency service), which performs the role of taking patients to and from their hospital appointments, discharges from hospital and non-urgent transfers.


  • History 1
  • Uniform 2
  • Organisation 3
  • Patient Transport 4
  • Air Ambulance Division 5
    • Charity-funded air ambulance 5.1
  • SORT 6
  • Ambulance Control Centres 7
  • Training Academy 8
  • Facts and figures 9
  • Ambulance Livery 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13


In 1948 the newly formed St Andrew's Ambulance Association and the British Red Cross, to jointly provide a national ambulance service for Scotland. The service was known as the St Andrew's and Red Cross Scottish Ambulance Service. The Red Cross withdrew from the service in 1967; the service was renamed the St Andrew's Scottish Ambulance Service. In 1974 the service was taken over by the NHS, the title being shortened to the Scottish Ambulance Service.

St. Andrew's First Aid, which is the trading name of St. Andrew's Ambulance Association, continues as a voluntary organisation.

In 2003 there was a reorganisation of the ambulance control centres across Scotland, with eight being merged into three.[1]


The original uniform for the service consisted of a light blue shirt, black clip-on tie, navy blue sweater and black peaked cap with Service crest.

In 1992, the uniform changed to a boiler-suit type uniform, to reflect the practicalities of providing front-line emergency care; and eventually a very similar trouser / shirt combination. These uniforms were an irish green colour for Emergency staff and a light blue shade for Patient Transport staff.

In 2013/2014, the uniform was again changed to mirror the NHS National Uniform standard. It is now supplied by Dimensions and is broadly similar to all other Ambulance Services in the UK; a dark green trouser / shirt combination with associated PPE. All staff, including control centre staff, now wear the national uniform unless otherwise authorised.


The national headquarters are in west side of Edinburgh and there are five divisions within the Service, namely:

A New Peugeot Boxer ambulance of the Scottish Ambulance Service
EC-135 G-SASA "Helimed 5" based at Glasgow City Heliport
Scottish Ambulance Service Air Ambulance G-SASA waiting at Fort William West End car park.
An SAS PRU (Paramedic Response Unit). A Honda CRV 4X4
Beech King Air in 2007

Patient Transport

The Patient Transport Service carries almost 1.6 million patients every year. This service is provided to patients who are physically or medically unfit to travel to hospital out-patient appointments by any other means can still make their appointments. The service also handles non-emergency admissions, discharges, transport of palliative care patients and a variety of other specialised roles.

Patient Transport Vehicles come in a variety of forms and are staffed by Ambulance Care Assistants, whom work either double or single crewed. They are trained to look after patients during the journey, and to provide basic emergency care.

Air Ambulance Division

The service has the only government-funded air ambulance service in the UK,[7] operated under contract by Gama Aviation. The fleet consists of two Eurocopter EC-145 helicopters (operated under sub-contract by Bond Air Services) and two Beechcraft B200C King Air fixed-wing aircraft, which provide emergency response and transfers of patients to and from remote areas of Scotland. In 2013/14, the air ambulance service flew 3,427 missions. One helicopter is based at Glasgow City Heliport, while the other operating base is Inverness Airport; one King Air is based at Aberdeen Airport, the other at Glasgow Airport.[8]

In June 2012 the result of a tender process for a new seven-year air ambulance contract was announced.[9] Commencing in April 2013, the winning tenderer Gama Aviation will continue to provide two rotary- and two fixed-wing aircraft on a 24-hour basis throughout Scotland.

The aircraft based in Glasgow are regularly used by the UK's only Emergency Medical Retrieval Service. The air ambulance service was occasionally featured as part of the popular Channel 5 television documentary series Highland Emergency.

Charity-funded air ambulance

In late 2012 a charity was founded to provide a further air ambulance to work alongside the state-funded aircraft.[10] Scotland's Charity Air Ambulance commenced operations in 2013 and operates an MBB Bo 105 helicopter crewed by Scottish Ambulance Service paramedics. The aircraft is based at Perth Airport and tasking is from the SAS ambulance control centre at Cardonald.


Special Operations Response Teams (SORT) have been set up in the North, East and West of Scotland to respond to major incidents including Nuclear, Chemical and Radiological ones. These teams have specially equipped vehicles with decontamination equipment on board.

Ambulance Control Centres

The Scottish Ambulance Service operates three Ambulance Control Centres (previously known as EMDCs until June 2012) which provide command & control and 999 call taking facilities for the Service; these are located in Cardonald, South Queensferry and Inverness. These centres operate 24 hours per day 365 days per year and are staffed by Emergency Call Handlers, Emergency Medical Dispatchers and Clinical Advisors.[11] All requests for an ambulance are prioritised using software called the Advanced Medical Priority Dispatch System (AMPDS) and a response is generated according to clinical need. Responses can be in the form of an ambulance, a Paramedic Response Unit, a BASICS Doctor, Emergency Medical Retrieval Service, an Ambulance Officer or a Community First Responder.

Training Academy

The Service has its own dedicated training academy within the campus of Glasgow Caledonian University. The facility has purpose built classrooms, lecture theatres, syndicate rooms and a clinical simulation area that recreates a 16-bed hospital ward and Accident & Emergency department allowing realistic interaction with other trainee healthcare professionals.[12]

Prior to April 2011, the service used its own dedicated training college located at Barony Castle in Eddleston near Peebles. Set in 25 acres (100,000 m2) of formal gardens and woodlands, Barony was a residential training and conference centre with 78 bedrooms that allowed the service to carry out all its training in house.

Facts and figures

In 2013/14, the service:[13]

  • Responded to 686,530 accident and emergency incidents.
  • Carried out 1,140,048 non-emergency patient journeys.
  • Flew 3,427 air ambulance missions.
  • The average response time to life-threatening calls throughout Scotland was 6.5 minutes.
  • The service employs 4,232 staff, of whom 550 are in support services and administration and 14 are board members.

Ambulance Livery

The ambulances have been painted white since the formation of the Scottish Ambulance Service. The original colour of white was a cream white called "Ambulance White" this has now been replaced by a brighter "Titanium" White. The ambulances originally carried a blue stripe of the sides with "Scottish Ambulance Service" in yellow lettering. The livery was changed to yellow fluorescent stripes sometime between 1986 and 1992. The current livery with Battenburg markings was introduced in 2002.

See also

Other Scottish emergency and non-emergency services:


  1. ^ Marshall, Chris (6 January 2015). "Thousands of ambulances sent to wrong addresses". The Scotsman. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  2. ^ Locations - North, accessed 9 May 2009
  3. ^ Locations - East Central, accessed 11 February 2009
  4. ^ Locations - West Central, accessed 11 February 2009
  5. ^ Locations - South East, accessed 11 February 2009
  6. ^ Locations - South West, accessed 11 February 2009
  7. ^ "What we do: Air ambulance". Scottish Ambulance Service. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  8. ^ "What we do: Aircraft" (Press release). Scottish Ambulance Service. 15 Sep 2015. Retrieved 15 Sep 2015. 
  9. ^ "New Air Ambulances will deliver enhanced clinical care" (Press release). Scottish Ambulance Service. 12 June 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  10. ^ "Charity Air Ambulance for Scotland" (Press release). Scottish Ambulance Service. 27 November 2012. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  11. ^ "Working for us: Ambulance Control Centre". Scottish Ambulance Service. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  12. ^ "New Academy is a major milestone for Ambulance professional development". Scottish Ambulance Service. 8 Feb 2011. Archived from the original on 2 Feb 2012. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  13. ^ "Scottish Ambulance Service Annual report 2013/14" (PDF). Scottish Ambulance Service. Retrieved 29 Aug 2015. 

External links

  • Official website
  • Scottish Ambulance Service YouTube
  • Scottish Ambulance Service on Twitter
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