SENIOR figures from the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) are in Shetland next month to try and bring confidence to residents on Unst that they can provide night time emergency cover.
Local MSP Tavish Scott met SAS chief executive Pauline Howie on Tuesday to press the need for alternatives to the current dependency on the coastguard helicopter when the local ferry service is not running.
He also wants the ambulance service to consider paying for the inter island ferries to remain on standby for medical emergencies.
Concerns have been heightened by the council’s current review of the ferry service, which is looking at removing night time standby services from the Bluemull and Yell Sound routes.
Howie promised that the oil industry’s standby Jigsaw helicopter based in Sumburgh would provide back up to the coastguard service should they be called out on an emergency.
She said that the lights at the Unst airstrip were being examined to make sure the Jigsaw aircraft could land at night.
The SAS has agreed to meet Shetland Islands Council on 3 September to discuss the implications of the ferries review for medical evacuations. They will also hold a public meeting to hear people’s concerns.
Scott said it was up to the council and other public agencies to ensure that a safe and speedy ambulance service was available 24 hours a day for all Shetlanders.
“I was pleased today that the SAS chief executive accepted that the emergency services and the council need to sit around the table and sort this out,” he said.
“What I will not accept is endless public sector haggling. Local people need to have confidence that an ambulance will get them to hospital if that unfortunate day or night ever happens.”
The MSP said he encouraged SAS staff to visit Yell and Unst to meet the local GPs and residents. He also wants them to discuss paying for standby cover for the islands’ ferries with the SIC.
“Before the worst of the Shetland winter arrives it is very important that a solution is in place.
“GPs and the public must have confidence that emergency medical evacuations will take place using the most appropriate form of transport. Most of the time that is a ferry.”