Firefighters are assisting the NHS by driving ambulances in parts of Scotland during periods of high demand.
A small number of Scottish Fire and Rescue Service employees have been enlisted by the Scottish Ambulance Service to help out due to restrictions easing, staff isolating and increasing numbers of callouts.
The firefighters, who have volunteered to take up the role, have been trained to drive ambulances and give first aid under the direction of a paramedic if needed.
They have currently been assisting in the east and north of the country as local NHS bodies experience “significant pressures”.
The Red Cross have also been helping to transport patients in “exceptional circumstances” but not with blue light services.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “Like other parts of the NHS, we are experiencing high levels of demand due to restrictions easing and staff isolating.
“In line with well established procedures at times of significant pressure, a small number of trained staff from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service have helped boost emergency driving capacity in the east and north of Scotland and the British Red Cross has assisted us with a small number of lower acuity patients in exceptional circumstances.
“Our staff are working tremendously hard and we’d like to thank them for the fantastic work they are doing to help patients across the country.
“Investment in new staff, new ambulances and the latest equipment continues and additional welfare measures, introduced during the pandemic, continue to support our staff during busy times.”
The number of firefighters involved is only a small fraction of the thousands of callouts the NHS receive every week.
The agreement between the Scottish Ambulance Service and the SFRS has been in place since last year as part of the Covid-19 emergency planning.
A Memorandum of Understanding has since been agreed between both organisations.
Scottish Fire and Rescue Service assistant chief officer Stuart Stevens said: “We began working closely with the Scottish Ambulance Service during the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure we can respond quickly and effectively to meet the needs of our communities.
“As part of this partnership, firefighters from across the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service have been trained to drive ambulances and use their first aid skills, under the direction of a paramedic.
“These firefighters, who all volunteered to undertake this training, also completed an ambulance driving assessment further to their ability to already drive fire appliances under blue lights.
“We commend them for their commitment.”
ACO Stevens added: “We would continue to respond to core emergencies such as fire and flooding before releasing any firefighter to support our SAS partners.”
All SFRS personnel will be equipped with PPE that meets clinical guidance from Health Protection Scotland.
They will continue to be paid by the SFRS, while SAS will be responsible for meeting any insurance requirements.
Malcolm Allsopp, head of ambulance support at The British Red Cross, said: “The British Red Cross has a proud history of complementing the work of the Scottish Ambulance Service, not least during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our ambulances and volunteer-led crews help people needing support to get to hospital and transport home, as part of our mission to help anyone during a crisis.”