Life-saving emergency cover has been enhanced in one of the Highlands’ busiest communities.
Ambulance chiefs have doubled the number of staff at their base in Aviemore in a move that will enable the station to switch from its current on-call basis to become a fully-manned 24/7 operation.
The investment in life-saving services at Aviemore Ambulance Station – where staff respond to about 400 emergencies each year – has been warmly welcomed locally.
Kate Forbes MSP said the improvements were hugely important, given the growing local population, huge number of annual visitors and presence of the A9.
Six additional positions have been filled, delivering a boost to urgent medical care in the Cairngorms.
It now means 12 accident and emergency staff – a mix of paramedics and technicians alongside an ambulance care assistant – are now based in Aviemore.
The Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) said it represents “a significant step forward” for healthcare in the Highlands.
And in a second welcome boost for the area, three new staff are also to join Kingussie Ambulance Station, further enhancing local cover.
‘Significant step forward for healthcare in the Highlands’
Robert Farquhar, SAS area service manager, said: “Our top priority continues to be our patients and our staff, who have been doing an amazing job every day in the most challenging of circumstances.
“This is great news for the whole valley and a significant step forward for healthcare in the Highlands.
“It will not only benefit staff and patients but the whole region.”
The ambulance team are expected to leave their current premises in Grampian Road in September to become part of the new Aviemore Community Hospital.
Mr Farquhar said the move would enable the service to “work more closely with our NHS Highland colleagues”.
He hopes the additional staff will ensure an improved work to life balance as well as ensuring communities in the area are well served should the service’s resources be required.
The ambulance service has said the welfare of staff is one of their “top priorities” and has been working to enhance cover at stations including Thurso, Wick, Kirkwall, Lerwick, Dufftown, Portree, Rothesay, Oban and Golspie stations to improve service for patients.
Milne Weir, SAS’s north regional director, added: “Over the last three years, on call working has been successfully eliminated at a number of ambulance locations.
“This has been a tremendous effort by our National On Call Working Group, which will continue this work on high priority on-call locations.”
Delight for local community
Local councillor Bill Lobban has welcomed the additional employment, believing it is a boost for the local community.
He said: “I think it is great, especially with the new hospital to open in the very near future.
“Having this extended ambulance cover is fantastic for the whole area and it is also good to hear of the expansion in numbers at Kingussie also.
“It will deliver an enhanced response and speedier response and more even cover right across the entire area.
“The SAS really has to be commended for this.”
24/7 cover ‘essential’
Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes believes the move is essential to best protect visitors and locals alike.
Ms Forbes said: “It is fantastic to have nine new posts being filled across Aviemore and Kingussie.
“This will make a significant difference to ambulance cover and hopefully for staff’s wellbeing too.
“With the surge in tourist numbers to hot spots like Loch Morlich, coupled with covering a significant part of the busy A9 trunk road, it is essential that 24/7 cover is in place for any emergencies.
“With the new hospital opening soon it’s another very positive and welcome development for Badenoch and Strathspey.”
The new community hospital in Aviemore is expected to open in September, four months beyond its initial planned opening date.