A Highland councillor has hit out at a lack of resources after being forced to endure a painful three-hour drive for an X-ray despite the new £18 million Aviemore hospital being just 20 minutes away.
Badenoch and Strathspey councillor Pippa Hadley had to make the drive to Inverness because her local unit was not open due to staff shortages.
It added insult to her injury of a broken leg after being told she would have to wait four hours for an ambulance.
Ms Hadley is calling on more resources to be made available in the area, which is known for outdoor sports and mountaineering that cause regular injuries.
The Scottish Ambulance Service says the case was treated as a non-emergency with crews deployed on more urgent calls at the time.
Meanwhile, NHS Highland says a full-time X-ray unit in Aviemore is unlikely in the “immediate future” due to national pressures.
What happened to Pippa Hadley?
After breaking her leg out in the Kingussie countryside Ms Hadley tried to do the right thing and got to her medical surgery.
She had to phone a friend and use his crutches to get to the main road, where she was picked up and taken to see medics.
When she got there she was told that she needed an ambulance and it would be a four-hour wait.
Staff at the medical centre explained that as there was only one vehicle on call and it was already on its way to take a patient to Inverness – Ms Hadley would need to wait.
She was given painkillers and treated “incredibly kindly” by staff.
The councillor could have been taken to the local hospital, a mere 20 minutes away, but it was not open for X-rays, due to “staff shortages”.
She said: “I was OK because my dad was able to come and get me and take me to hospital. It still took about three hours. It was a very painful journey in the back of his car – but we got there.
People in pain need treatment
“But what about all those people who are not OK, and in pain and on their own. It is not good enough.
“The problem is that not enough resource is going to the right thing.
“It is vital that people with injuries are pain-free. I made my own way to the doctor’s surgery. I was in agony. So many people do not have the resources to do that.
“What if someone elderly falls over and needs help immediately? Or if someone breaks a bone while out on the hill and the ambulance is somewhere else?
“These are seriously painful injuries and we need to make sure people in the region are getting the right support.
“The simple fact is that we need more than one ambulance on call for this area.”
Councillor Bill Lobban, who lives in Aviemore, said: “I have written to NHS Highland’s chief executive about this matter.
“Not only is it a big problem that people are waiting for ambulances – but the bigger problem is that we have a facility that could have made an assessment in Aviemore and it was closed.”
No full-time radiography service
He continued: “But NHS Highland has no full-time radiography service based here. As far as I know it is only open a few days a week.”
He continued: “This is a brand new radiography department. The hospital has a minor injuries unit.
“If there is a logical reason for its closure then I am happy to listen to the chief executive.”
He added: “This is the first major incident I have heard of where the new facility wasn’t used, when it should have been. It just happened to be Pippa.
“The situation needs to be clarified and sorted out before anything else happens.”
An NHS Highland spokeswoman said the full-time opening of the X-ray department is unlikely to be in the “immediate future”.
She said: “Due to patient confidentiality we are unable to discuss individual cases but would welcome the opportunity to discuss this directly with the person if they could get in touch with us.
‘Significant pressure on radiography’
“Depending on clinical presentation a patient with confirmed or suspected fracture most likely would be taken directly to Raigmore hospital for treatment as that is where our orthopaedics department, who review and manage this type of injury, are based.
“Radiography as a profession is currently nationally under significant pressure with national shortages.
She added: “Whilst we would aim to increase the availability of this service at Badenoch and Strathspey Hospital, this is unlikely to be in the immediate future.”
An spokesman for the ambulance service said: “We can confirm we received a GP request on February 16 at 1350 hours to transfer a patient to hospital.
“This was a non-emergency transfer, with the nearest ambulance resource dealing with an emergency at the time.
“It was tasked to attend the patient afterwards; however at 12.31pm, the GP called to cancel the ambulance as the patient was making her own way to hospital.
“All our calls are triaged to ensure the most seriously ill patients are given the highest priority.”