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Lack of paramedics 'putting lives at risk'

By SPP Reporter

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THE lack of trained paramedics on ambulances in north and west Sutherland is putting patients at risk, it is claimed.

Ambulance crews in the area are staffed by technicians who are not trained to the same level as paramedics.

Former Sutherland MSP Jamie Stone, now a Highland councillor, this week warned of the safety risks

And he called for pressure to be exerted on the Scottish Government to improve the emergency service in the area as a matter of urgency.

Mr Stone, who stepped down as a Liberal Democrat MSP in 2011, said the long-running issue caused him and the community a great deal of concern.

Councillor Stone highlighted the situation in north west Sutherland, specifically Kinlochbervie and Lairg, following a presentation by two senior SAS officials to the council’s community safety committee in Inverness this week.

Councillor Stone claimed GPs in the area were called out more often than in other locations because of the situation. "In north and west Sutherland we don’t have the paramedic cover we would like," he told the committee.

"Obviously paramedics can make interventions that technicians are unable to carry out. The fact that there are no paramedics, does bring a wider safety risk.

"Given this committee’s role in community safety, would it be possible for us to write to our government ministers about that part of the Highlands?

"This has been the situation for a long time. It would be the final piece in the jigsaw." Councillor Stone praised the overall ambulance service and said his wife was a regular user of patient transport.

Graham MacLeod, head of ambulance services in the Highlands, said it was difficult to retain paramedics in Sutherland because the number of 999 call outs was so low that staff felt they had to move elsewhere to retain their skills.

SAS area manager Milne Weir said about 80 per cent of the call outs received could be dealt with by technicians and an air ambulance was available in an emergency. "If it is a serious case the patient will be going to Raigmore or further afield," he said.

Landward Caithness councillor Alex MacLeod asked if paramedics could be rotated around the Highlands in order to keep their skills levels up.

Graham MacLeod said about 30 per cent of paramedics were regularly moved round different bases while staff also undertook shifts at hospitals, cardiac units and accident and emergency departments to refresh their skills. There were 15,978 calls to the ambulance service in the Highlands between April and October this year, 508 more calls than the same period last year.

Mr Weir said more direct 999 calls were being made while referrals from GPs and the helpline NHS 24 had also increased.

SAS staff attended 70 per cent of Category A (life threatening) calls within eight minutes and 90 per cent of Category B (serious calls) within 19 minutes.

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