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Concerns raised over air ambulance mix-up

AN INVESTIGATION is underway after an air ambulance sent to the aid of an infant in Orkney mistakenly flew to Shetland.

The incident happened on Friday and the King Air plane, which was sent from Aberdeen and is believed to have had an incubator on board, was quickly diverted to Orkney once the error was realised.

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has written to Scottish Ambulance Service chief executive Pauline Howie to express his concern over the incident.

A Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) spokesman said on Thursday afternoon that he was not in a position to confirm if the plane actually landed in Shetland because investigations were ongoing.

However, a spokesperson for Highlands and Islands Airports confirmed that an air ambulance plane arrived at Sumburgh Airport from Aberdeen before leaving for Orkney.

SAS added: “This is an extremely unusual occurrence and we made arrangements for our aircraft to collect the patient from Orkney as soon as we were made aware of the error.

“The patient was transferred safely to hospital in Aberdeen by air. We are working closely with NHS Grampian to establish the circumstances around the initial request.”

NHS Grampian confirmed that the patient was treated before being returned home.

Chairman of Shetland Islands Council’s community safety and resilience board Alastair Cooper said he was “amazed” to learn of the incident.

“It’s a serious miscalculation,” he said. “If you did actually land in Shetland, the actual time to go back to Orkney, that could affect the patient. 

“It’s the sort of thing that in a time criticial situation, you can’t afford things like that to happen.”

McArthur said he wants assurances from the ambulance service that an incident of this nature will not happen again.

“The importance of the air ambulance service to islanders cannot be overstated. All too often it can be the difference between life and death,” he said.

“Reports that a flight meant to pick up a patient in Orkney can end up in Shetland is therefore deeply concerning.

“Fortunately, on this occasion, no harm appears to have come to the young patient involved, but it is imperative that the investigation underway is concluded quickly and any additional safeguards necessary put in place.”