MEDICAL evacuations from Shetland’s outer isles should become easier after the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) trained up volunteers to deploy lights at landing sites.
The initiative will allow the Jigsaw helicopter, operated by the oil industry but also contracted to the ambulance service, to land at night.
In the past only the coastguard search and rescue helicopter has had 24 hour access to the islands of Fair Isle, Fetlar, Foula, Papa Stour, Skerries, Unst, Whalsay, and Yell.
In recent months the coastguard chopper has been frequently used to airlift people to hospital, though it is acknowledged that this is not the aircraft’s primary role.
The move was cautiously welcomed by islanders who all said there had been “substantial teething problems” in implementing the service.
North isles councillor Gary Cleaver said the initiative was a step in the right direction as the isles had been left vulnerable in emergencies.
“If what the Scottish Ambulance Service is saying is correct and is verifiable then I am pleased with the progress made,” he said.
Discussions with Shetland Islands Council to re-instate standby ferry crews as a back-up were ongoing, according to Cleaver.
Andy Moir, the head of air ambulance service at the SAS, said the move would ensure a high quality service that meets islanders’ needs.
“The development of these sites and the support of volunteers to deploy lights in darkness will improve operational flexibility, particularly at night,” he said.
The SAS undertakes around 16 medical evacuations by air from Shetland’s outer isles every year.
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