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Calls for urgent review of ambulance cover in Orkney

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur

Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, is calling for an urgent review into ambulance cover in Orkney.

Last month, Mr McArthur raised with ministers concerns that emergency calls risked being left waiting while Orkney’s only land ambulance was responding to another call.

He also asked if Orkney had been left without land ambulance cover for a period of time over the past year.

In response, the minister for public health, Joe Fitzpatrick, has written to Mr McArthur confirming that there were 168 occasions between December 1, 2018, and December 18, 2019 when emergency calls in Orkney were left waiting due to the ambulance responding to another call.

There was also an occasion when Orkney was left without any ambulance cover on the mainland and linked south isles for two hours.

Commenting on the minister’s response, Mr McArthur said: “These figures reveal the extent to which land ambulance capacity in Orkney is failing to meet the needs of patients. People in Orkney will be shocked to hear how often those making emergency calls are being forced to wait due to a lack of land ambulance cover. In many instances, these will be cases where the response time can be critical.

“This is absolutely no criticism of Orkney’s ambulance crews, who do outstanding work in operating a service that is clearly over-stretched. Indeed, the admission from the Minister about the scale of the problem shows that local crews are being let down by a lack of resources and support. This can only be making an already difficult job even more challenging.

“I am due to meet senior representatives of the Scottish Ambulance Service early next month. I will make clear the need for an urgent review into the resources available locally and calling for additional capacity to meet the needs of the Orkney community. This is the very least that the public and our ambulance staff deserve.”

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