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Army might help out ambulance service in Inverness and Highland to ease pressure on NHS


By Neil MacPhail

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Patient transfer at Raigmore Hospital.
Patient transfer at Raigmore Hospital.

MILITARY personnel could be used across the Highlands and in Inverness to ease pressure on the Scottish Ambulance Service. (SAS)

It has been reported that the Army would be helping with patient transfer but not on emergency call-outs in several Scottish centres including Inverness.

However the SAS indicated that military might be in Inverness only if required.

A spokesperson said: “We are delighted that targeted military assistance to provide additional capacity to assist with service pressures has been approved.

"Some 114 personnel, including drivers and support staff, will help free up our paramedics and technicians to focus solely on providing patients with the best clinical care.

"Scottish Fire and Rescue Service support is being currently being utilised in the north and across Scotland and the military personnel who start this weekend and will be primarily based in the central belt, will be deployed to areas most in need over the autumn and winter.”

An additional 111 military service personnel will deploy to support the continued delivery of Mobile Testing Units to help identify Covid infections and break chains of transmission, said the SAS. The support will be provided primarily around Glasgow and Edinburgh and personnel will start by Wednesday, September 29.

This week the Scottish Government announced additional funding of £20 million for the SAS to help improve response times, alleviate pressures and improve staff wellbeing.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said the new investment will deliver assistance from more than 100 military personnel – 88 drivers and 15 support staff. Personnel are expected to begin deployment from this weekend onwards.

It will also finance around 100 second year paramedic students to help in ambulance control rooms; more Hospital Ambulance Liaison Officers at the busiest A&Es, increasing from 11 to 20, and helping ensure timely admission of patients at A&E and reduce ambulance waiting times; additional help from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in the form of volunteer drivers, as well as the British Red Cross and private transport companies where clinically appropriate.

The £20 million will also fund immediate work to create temporary admission wards in hospitals, meaning patients can be admitted quicker; additional senior clinical input in ambulance control rooms, and to assist and speed up decision-making on mental health, addictions, falls, breathing difficulties, high intensity users and trauma.

A sum of £500,000 will fund staff wellbeing measures, and 14 additional staff members in Highland to reduce the on-call requirement in Campeltown, and remove it completely in Fort William, Kirkwall and Broadford.

The funding comes in addition to £20 million already announced as part of the NHS Recovery Plan. That investment will deliver a net increase of almost 300 ambulance service staff by April 2022.

Mr Yousaf said: “The pandemic has created the most challenging crisis in the history of the NHS. Ambulance services around the UK, as well as the wider NHS, are experiencing unprecedented demand – largely because of COVID-19, but also due to a combination of increasingly complex cases, and exceptionally busy emergency departments.

“The Scottish Ambulance Service is the heartbeat of our NHS. It has a unique role in engaging with all parts of the health and social care system across the whole of Scotland - 24 hours of every day. It is vital that we ensure it has the support it needs to perform this crucial role."


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