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Carluke crew plugs strath 999 shortage

By Gavin Musgrove

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An ambulance responds to a call.Picture: Gary Anthony. Image No.
An ambulance responds to a call.Picture: Gary Anthony. Image No.

TWO ambulance crew members had to be drafted in from more than 150 miles away to cover staff shortages at Aviemore ambulance station, it has emerged.

Sources have told the Strathy that the personnel from Carluke in South Lanarkshire were called in to cover on-call duties at the station at the end of February.

They had to be brought in to fill absences caused by a combination of holiday leave and sickness, along with two Scottish Ambulance Service staff usually based in Inverness, over the three days.

A source said: “Fortunately this time there were only a few small jobs over the period affected which was February 22 to 24 and they were not called to go out further afield onto the back roads.”

It is understood Grantown and Kingussie were covered as usual by local SAS staff over the period. The Carluke staff were accommodated in the Aviemore area for the duration of their work.

The source said: “This has been caused because the service is short-staffed and the service has not replaced staff who have left. It is a very rare occurrence to have staff brought in from so far away.”

There are also claims that the SAS has broken its own guidelines by recruiting an ambulance staff member who lives in the Cromdale area which is outwith the usual three-mile radius to be based in Grantown.

The individual said: “This shows that the SAS is happy to extend the limit and move the goalposts when it suits them but it could set a dangerous precedent.”

GMB Scotland has been campaigning for on-call to be scrapped at the busiest ambulance stations alongside the A9 and replaced with shift patterns used in most other parts of Scotland.

Spokesman John Marr said that these two latest concerns highlighted the pressing need for change.

He said employing staff from too far away could lead to the anomaly where an ambulance had to pass by an incident to pick up a work colleague.

“Requests have been made to the service to provide a second vehicle for the Grantown area but as far as we are aware the Scottish Ambulance Service has said no,” he said. “They seem to make up their own rules when it suits them.”

Mr Marr said that the Aviemore issue would not have arisen if there was 24/7 cover through shift work. “We are going over old ground here. We have called on the Scottish Government and the Scottish Ambulance Service to make Aviemore a 24 hours station but they are just beating about the bush.

“Staff and the wider community have all raised their concerns over the current arrangement. You have to ask yourself why the SAS has to bring in cover all the way from Carluke.

“It is because the on-call staff are so exhausted. This arrangement was fine when there were one or two calls a week but now there can be three, four of five a day. Aviemore needs a service fit for the 21st century.”

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