Union blasts am­bu­lance short­age

The Oban Times - - News -

A TRADE union says im­me­di­ate sup­port is needed for am­bu­lance ser­vices in the West High­lands which are ‘thread­bare and some­times non-ex­is­tent’.

Unite re­gional of­fi­cer Richard Whyte said mem­bers in Skye, Fort Wil­liam and Caith­ness are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly frus­trated and con­cerned about the dan­ger­ous prac­tice of rou­tinely putting emer­gency am­bu­lances onto long pa­tient trans­fers to Raig­more Hospi­tal.

He ex­plained: ‘There are 400 in­ter-hospi­tal trans­fers be­tween Belford and Raig­more a year – that’s more than one a day. There are 250 a week from Belford, Broad­ford and Caith­ness.

‘There has been a re­duc­tion in pa­tient trans­fer ser­vice where mem­bers of staff now work on their own. There has also been a re­duc­tion in the num­ber of jour­neys be­cause Raig­more is ask­ing peo­ple, as much as pos­si­ble, to travel un­der their own steam, but where pa­tient re­quires a wheel­chair or any­thing more than an arm to lean on, it is passed on as an emer­gency.’

He said that amid the changes lessons have not been learned.

‘There are oc­ca­sions where staff are work­ing 12 hours, go­ing home but get­ting a call in the mid­dle of their sleep to come back out, which is lead­ing to fa­tigue and low morale.

‘Some­times be­fore the am­bu­lances can re­turn to their own com­mu­ni­ties, they are be­ing sent to cover calls in the In­ver­ness area. And there has been more than one oc­ca­sion when the ser­vice has been thread­bare or even non-ex­is­tent in the north-west.’

‘The lack of fore­sight by am­bu­lance chiefs is as­ton­ish­ing,’ con­tin­ued Mr Whyte. ‘God for­bid that any­thing goes wrong when Skye, Lochaber or Caith­ness is left with lit­tle or no emer­gency cover. This needs sorted now.’

A Scottish Am­bu­lance Ser­vice spokesper­son said: ‘We are aware of pres­sures on in­ter-hospi­tal trans­fers and are work­ing on this with NHS High­land.

‘We are also aware of the need to keep emer­gency cover in the area. Calls are re­sponded to based on pa­tient need. This means send­ing pa­tients the most ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse, which, if they have an im­me­di­ately life-threat­en­ing con­di­tion such as car­diac ar­rest, will be the clos­est avail­able re­source.

‘There is a range of re­sponses we can send to emer­gen­cies, in­clud­ing air and land am­bu­lances, as well as first re­spon­ders, and we con­tinue to work closely with our part­ners and com­mu­ni­ties to en­sure we de­liver the safest and most ef­fec­tive ser­vice.

‘As part of a £5 mil­lion ad­di­tional in­vest­ment in the ser­vice, we have also re­cruited 12 staff into new posts across the High­land area since April 2016.’

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