The Scotsman - - Perspective / Letters To The Editor -

I read with in­ter­est your re­port and leader on the in­sis­tence by the Scot­tish Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice that fire­fight­ers could not drive am­bu­lances, even in ex­treme cir­cum­stances. The crit­i­cal in­ci­dent cited was re­lated to a Shet­land road traf­fic ac­ci­dent.

Last year, with a col­league, I car­ried out a study for the Our Islands Our Fu­ture cam­paign that ex­am­ined the var­i­ous ways in which the three re­mote Islands groups are struc­turally dis­ad­van­taged as com­pared to even our re­mote main­land com­mu­ni­ties, let alone Cen­tral Scot­land.

In dis­cus­sion with var­i­ous peo­ple, and as we re­ported, the key fac­tors were not only dis­tance, sea, money and pop­u­la­tion dis­tri­bu­tion. There was also a fac­tor that I have de­scribed as “pro­fes­sional ex­cep­tion­al­ism”; this arises where pro­fes­sional bodies im­pose ser­vice pro­to­cols or re­quire­ments that might be ap­pro­pri­ate in the cen­tral belt but not in Orkney, Shet­land or Eilean Siar.

This in­ci­dent, and the Fire Ser­vice’s re­ac­tion to it, seems to be a classic ex­am­ple of this. There is no ob­vi­ous le­gal or reg­u­la­tory rea­sons why a fire­fighter li­cenced to drive a fire ten­der can­not drive an am­bu­lance. He or she is in­sured by the agree­ment of the Scot­tish Am­bu­lance Ser­vice, just as I would be in­sured if you agree I can drive your car. The po­si­tion of the Scot­tish F&RS ap­pears to be that they do not ac­cept this in­sur­ance ar­range­ment.

Their sug­gested op­tion is that a fire­fighter can­not drive but can as­sist in the back of the am­bu­lance while am­bu­lance crew drive. So their so­lu­tion is that a man or wo­man bet­ter equipped to of­fer trau­matic med­i­cal as­sis­tance drives, while a fire­fighter, prob­a­bly equally equipped to drive and less well equipped med­i­cally, as­sists with the pa­tient in the back of the am­bu­lance.

At best this is cu­ri­ous think­ing; at worst ob­struc­tive bound­ary pro­tec­tion. (PROF) RICHARD KERLEY May­field Road, Ed­in­burgh

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