A newly set up first responder medical scheme in a remote west Highland community is suffering communication problems due to a mobile phone network being out of action for almost two weeks.
The scheme was set up to provide out-of-hours emergency medical cover for the Acharacle area of Lochaber at the end of December.
And the problem with the coverage provided by network provider Orange began on January 9.
Acharacle Community Council chairman Hugh MacPherson described the situation as “unacceptable”.
He said a lot of hard work had gone into setting up the scheme and selecting a phone network, adding that the Orange EE network had offered the most reliable way of communication.
Mr MacPherson said: “We have been trying to get this underway for a few years. We were very pleased it was now up and running and then this happens.”
He explained that the first responders, who include nurse, firefighters and other volunteers, have a defibrillator and attend at the scene and stabilise the patient until more help arrives.
He added that their phones also pick up other networks but, with Orange out of action, there are many places where there is no signal at all.
Mr MacPherson said: “Individuals who have complained to Orange about the situation have been told the phone company ‘apologises for any inconvenience’, but it is not an inconvenience. Here, it is a lifeline service.”
He pointed out that not everyone had a landline, with many people relying on mobile phones, and said the situation was also a concern for carers and the vulnerable people they looked after.
It is understood that the problem has been caused by damage to a mast north of the River Sheil, above the village of Mingarry.
Locals were originally told the system would be working again on January 14, but they have now been told it will be repaired on Friday.
An Orange spokeswoman said: “We are aware of the signal issues in Acharacle due to a fault at a site in the area.
“We are working to access and fix this site as a priority and apologise for any inconvenience caused.”