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Cabinet Secretary for health confirms the north's life-saving emergency PICT service has been given six month reprieve as MSP Edward Mountain welcomes a 'U-turn' by NHS Highland

By Scott Maclennan

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NHS Highland reversed its position after a wave of pressure from MSPs.
NHS Highland reversed its position after a wave of pressure from MSPs.

NHS Highland’s PICT team has been given a stay of execution from funding cuts that would have seen the life-saving emergency service operational hours slashed.

The operational hours of the Pre-hospital Immediate Care and Trauma (PICT) team were under threat, as exclusively revealed by the Inverness Courier in January.

MSP Edward Mountain campaigned for a rethink from the health board and has now welcomed the “U-turn” after it previously indicated it would not fully fund the service.

As confirmed by the Cabinet Secretary for Health Humza Yousaf funding will come both from NHS Highland and STN for what he called the “essential” service.

PICT teams attend the scenes of major trauma incidents providing advanced care, extending the capabilities of the Scottish Ambulance Service.

Typically they deal with the most extreme cases where people are at risk of losing their life and those who require urgent medical attention and pain management.

PICT was under threat of having its service capabilities in the north reduced from seven days per week to four days because the board wanted to invest elsewhere.

Mr Mountain raised the issue directly with the Cabinet Secretary for Health Humza Yousaf and his reply today confirmed the survival of the service for another six months.

Mr Yousaf wrote: “Scottish Government funding via the Scottish Trauma Network (STN) to the North of Scotland Regional Trauma Network will continue for the PICT service (12 hours per day) running from Raigmore Hospital in NHS Highland.

“My officials and the STN have engaged with NHS Highland and have confirmed they remain committed to the ongoing training of the PICT team and are keen for the PICT doctor service to continue.

“I also understand that NHS Highland have reversed the funding decision and have agreed to temporarily extend funding for the PICT service until September 2022, where it will be reviewed again.

“It is widely accepted that pre-hospital services in the North of Scotland area have been enhanced through the STN with the introduction of a team of Advanced Practitioners in Critical Care based at Raigmore Hospital. These highly-trained and skilled advanced practitioners are employed and governed by the Scottish Ambulance Service.

“The Scottish Government, STN and NHS Highland remain fully supportive of the service that PICT provides. PICT is an essential part of a fully joined up service that enables an equitable approach for pre-hospital care across the whole of Scotland.”

However, there will be another review of the funding arrangements in September 2022 – something that has not pleased Mr Mountain.

He said: “Highland PICT is a world-class team and I am delighted it has secured the funding to continue as a seven day per week service. NHS Highland have finally seen sense and I welcome their U-turn.

“I am however concerned that this funding is only in place for the next 6 months and I will continue to campaign for a long-term funding settlement that secures the future of the PICT service beyond September 2022.

“PICT offers a life-saving service and we simply cannot afford to downgrade their capabilities.”

Related Story – Supporters of a 'world class' lifesaving life-saving trauma team demand a rethink after NHS Highland's refusal to fully back the service sparks questions from medical experts and MSP Edward Mountain who say it must be maintained full-time

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