Plans to boost Moray ambulance cover poised to progress

Richard Lochhead MSP meets with the Chief Executive of the Scottish Ambulance Service, Pauline Howie at Scottish Ambulance Service Depot, Elgin, and talks about concerns about response times in Moray.

Health Secretary Shona Robison has raised hopes that plans to boost life-saving ambulance cover in Moray are finally poised to progress.

The minister revealed to MSPs yesterday that a business case for addressing the region’s “black hole” in resources would be reviewed by the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) and NHS Grampian later this month.

Concerns have been repeatedly raised in recent years that Moray’s paramedic crews have been stretched to breaking point by having to perform hundreds of “non-emergency” hospital transfers every year.

It has meant that vast areas have no ambulances to respond to people in distress, campaigners have claimed.

Local MSP Richard Lochhead raised the issue in Holyrood yesterday, saying: “Outstanding issues remain in terms of having an additional, new emergency ambulance based in Elgin and with the on-call situation in Dufftown to be addressed as well.

“I would be grateful if the cabinet secretary could keep a close eye on that and put pressure on the Scottish Ambulance Service to expedite those long-standing decisions.”

Ms Robison said: “The Scottish Ambulance Service has been working in partnership with NHS Grampian to put additional ambulance resources in place in Moray.

“Discussions are ongoing to look at what ambulance resources are required in Moray in the medium to long term and a business case is anticipated to be ready by the end of this month, which will be jointly reviewed by both organisations.”

The health secretary added that she recently held a “very productive meeting” with front-line staff in Elgin and that she would be keeping a “very close eye” on initiatives being progressed to address the issues.

An SAS spokeswoman said: “We recognise that there have been challenges in Moray and Elgin.

“That is why we have introduced two specialist paramedics in Elgin with an additional two specialist paramedics currently undertaking training, a Hospital Ambulance Liaison Officer at Dr Gray’s and additional relief posts across Moray which underpins our commitment to providing a safe and effective level of cover in Elgin and Moray at all times.

“Recruitment for staff members in Dufftown is also ongoing and we are working in partnership with staff and their representatives to develop solutions to further reduce the number of hours worked on call by staff in Dufftown and other areas.

“We are continuing to work in partnership with NHS Grampian to put additional ambulance resources in place in Moray and we are arranging to discuss a business case for recurring investment in additional ambulance resources.”