MSP says shocking delay for ambulance highlights crisis in ambulance service

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16 March 2017

Ambulance bosses have admitted there was almost an eight-hour delay in sending an ambulance to Caithness General Hospital when a sick child needed a transfer to Inverness.

Highlands and Islands MSP Labour MSP Rhoda Grant asked the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) for the facts of the case when reports of the delay were raised with her by worried constituents.

SAS’s Chief Executive, Pauline Howie, replied that the ambulance control centre received a call from Caithness General Hospital at 13.25 on 20th December last year to transfer a child from Wick to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

The hospital requested the child be picked up within two hours.

“Due to the high demand in the area this timescale could not be met. The request was then upgraded to an emergency response and arrived on the scene at 21.05,” said Ms Howie in a letter to Mrs Grant this month.

“The Ambulance Control room kept Caithness General informed of the delay throughout.”

Mrs Grant said she would take up the ambulance service’s offer of feedback from a review of the incident but was really concerned about such a delay.

“I was shocked that it would have taken more than 10 hours, given the travelling time to Inverness, for a child to arrive at hospital after an ambulance was called and requested by hospital staff within a couple of hours,” she explained.

“Given that Unite members in the north have voted to start an official dispute over ongoing concerns about the service to the public, this case highlights the pressure that ambulance staff are under.

“Added to this are reports that some ambulance drivers from the west coast are claiming to be falling asleep at the wheel if called to Inverness during their shift.

“There needs to be an urgent review on the strain on the emergency service and on Patient Transport – both are vital to remote, rural areas."