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Ambulance service under pressure

A PENSIONER who damaged his hip after slipping while walking his dog on a beach was airlifted to hospital by helicopter on Friday morning.

It took three hours to transport the 72 year old man to hospital and he was eventually delivered by a maintenance van, as all the local ambulance vehicles were already tied up.

The man was walking his dog at 8.30am at Billister, North Nesting, when the accident happened. His worried wife eventually went out to look for him when he failed to return and called 999 when she found him.

As the local ambulance service was already dealing with two cases involving the air ambulance as well as a third medical patient, the ambulance that turned up at the scene had just one paramedic on board.

He was unable to lift the man unaided, so the local coastguard rescue team were called in just before 10am.

On arrival, the coastguard realised the man was already cold and in pain and his journey to hospital would be unpleasant on the bumpy tracks in the area, so they called in the Sumburgh-based helicopter who airlifted the man to the coastguard helipad at Lerwick’s Clickimin Leisure Complex.

Yet when they arrived at 11.30am there was no ambulance to collect the patient and take him to Gilbert Bain Hospital, and he had to be transported in a maintenance van borrowed from the leisure centre.

By lunchtime the man was described as “comfortable” and his injuries were being treated.

The incident raised concerns about the effectiveness of the local ambulance service, which was only increased to two ambulance vehicles last year following a huge local campaign after several people were left stranded or forced to use other means to attend hospital.

A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesman said that it was highly unusual for four incidents requiring an ambulance to all happen at the same time.

He said that had the coastguard helicopter crew waited a few minutes longer a vehicle would have been available to take the patient to the hospital.