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