Years of campaigning have paid off for Elgin’s paramedics with the announcement that several new recruits will soon boost their fleet – and accelerate emergency response times across Moray.
The Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) yesterday announced that eight extra members of staff will join the 21-strong Elgin team – an increase of more than 40%.
The decision was met with relief from local paramedics who have worked tirelessly to convince bosses of the need for improvements.
One employee said the appointments will make a “big difference” – with enough paramedics in Elgin to run two ambulances for 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.
Currently, there is only one ambulance running 24/7, with another in operation for just eight hours.
Unite representative Tommy Campbell said the new recruits would relieve current staff of “some of the stress they are suffering due to working long shifts to provide cover”.
The threadbare state of Moray’s ambulance cover was thrown into focus two years ago when 16-year-old Keiran McKandie was killed while cycling with friends and it took a mercy vehicle 27 minute to arrive – more than three times as long as it should have.
Paramedics argued that rural services were being used to prop up those in Aberdeen, leaving the area with insufficient cover for hours at a time.
Yesterday’s announcement that a mix of eight paramedics and technicians will join the Elgin team was welcomed by Moray MSP, Richard Lochhead, who paramedics credited with helping their crusade.
He said: “Moray’s ambulance crews have been under significant pressure over the last few years.
“Our ambulance staff deserve a huge amount of credit for the work they’ve put into making the case for increased resources, their determination has been central to improvements being delivered.”
In January, Health Secretary Shona Robison launched a review aimed at addressing the region’s “black hole” in resources.
Last night, she said: “I’m pleased that a sustainable solution has been found to provide patients in Moray with the best –and safest – service possible.
“This will have a real impact.”
SAS regional director for the north, Milne Weir, added: “These new posts will further enhance our local resilience, complementing wider investment in the Moray area.”
However, union boss Mr Campbell suggested that SAS top brass had only acted after a public outcry about the area’s lack of resources.
He said: “It should be remembered that the recruiting of these staff has come about because of Unite’s members threatening industrial action, coupled with pressure from the community and politicians shouting from the roof tops about
the crisis facing the service.
“We will, of course, expect to see this improvement in the very near future and we hope that there are more ambulance vehicles to be provided too.
“The extra ambulance personnel will relieve the current staff of some of the stress they are suffering due to working long shifts to provide cover due to the staffing crisis.”
Earlier this year, SAS created three new posts at Dufftown – at a cost of £80,000 – following concerns that staff shortages had left overworked employees “exhausted”.
The town had an unmanned station for 790 hours between July 2016 and January 2017 due to fatigue.
Last night, an Elgin paramedic said that having an additional 11 crew members between the two stations would provide Moray residents with some peace of mind.
He said: “When the Dufftown staff are trained up, and we have new colleagues in Elgin, that will mean we have three 24-hour ambulances in the area.”