26th April 2018
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Ambulance ban for firefighters follows serious car smash

Firefighters have been handed an edict ordering them not to drive ambulances back from emergencies, despite the co-operation between the blue light services potentially helping to save lives.

The instruction has been given by assistant chief officer at the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Lewis Ramsay, who says fire crews are not insured to drive vehicles owned by the Scottish Ambulance Service.

It follows a serious incident on 5th August, when four people were rushed to hospital after a smash between Voe and Brae, on the night before the Voe Show.

Ambulances were driven by firefighters on that occasion to free up medical staff so they could concentrate on treating the patients in the back on their way to A&E at the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick.

Firefighting crews stand behind the decision to help ambulance staff, which has been described as common practice in rural areas such as Shetland.

The news follows trying times for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, after the troubled opening of its new control centre in Dundee this year.

Mr Ramsay has stoically defended the work of control staff, and accused the media of whipping up a “baseless” storm.

Allison Duncan

However, the vice-chairman of the community safety and resilience board, Allison Duncan, has insisted local knowledge should not be taken for granted.

“If you name places like Sandwick and Hamnavoe, unless it’s very clear-cut you could have fire appliances going to the wrong place. How do you replace local knowledge – that is a concern of mine.

“Do they fully understand the language difficulties? I suppose it’s a cost-cutting exercise, however there comes a time when there can be no more cost-cutting. We’re going to lose the experience of people in Inverness.”

Mr Ramsay said firefighters were trained in providing medical assistance, but were not trained in driving an ambulance.

“They are perfectly trained, insured and equipped to ride in the rear of an ambulance and render medical assistance. And that’s what we do,” he said.

“That instruction has been made very clear, and I will expect firefighters to do their duty if requested to do so, in terms of riding in the rear of an ambulance and rendering assistance.”

• There is more on this story in our special report in this week’s newspaper.

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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13 comments

  1. John Jamieson

    Lewis Ramsay says fire crews are not insured to drive vehicles owned by the Scottish Ambulance Service but are trained, insured and equipped to ride in the rear of an ambulance and render medical assistance.
    Given the choice I would take my chances on being driven by a member of the fire crew while receiving medical attention from the ambulance staff.
    Can Lewis Ramsay assure us that the fire fighter in the back is trained to the same medical standard as the ambulance staff at the wheel ?

    Reply
  2. Paul Henderson

    I am so glad that those in so called authority have not had to endure a situation like this with their own family as maybe they would realise that you would want to see everything possible done to save a loved one no matter what.
    A fire fighters job is hard enough without leaving them with the thought that if it wasn’t for some stupid “instruction” they might have been able to help save someone.
    Who employs these people who open their mouths without thinking?

    Reply
  3. John N Hunter

    A few years ago a woman died after she fell into a disused mineshaft because some Fire Brigade bureaucrat insisted they couldn’t use the rescue equipment they had available because health and safety rules wouldn’t allow it.

    Reply
  4. Ali Inkster

    Yet again central belt bureaucracy trumps common sense in da isles. So much for island proofing.

    Reply
    • Brian Smith

      How is Wir Shetland.

      Reply
      • Ali Inkster

        Having as much success for less effort than OIOF Brian, thanks for asking.

  5. Ian Tinkler

    Idiots in charge of the asylum, yet again. I just hope if I ever need help the helpers are allowed to use their initiative and ignore the mindless stupid donkeys who issue “The Rules” and lemming-like follow “The Regulations”. The answer here is simple. Widen the insurance cover and give firefighters basic training to drive the ambulances. It should not be beyond the wit of man to do that!!!

    Reply
  6. Gareth Blance

    A Firefighter driver would have the same training as a Ambulance Driver , A Fire engine would be basically the same to drive as an Ambulance , Some more thought requires to be put In to It , Its something that requires to be put forward to the government to get the green light .

    Reply
  7. Michael Garriock

    A classic example of the attitude of pubic service management of today. Instead of working towards a solution, such as negotiating with either the SAS insurers to extend cover to fire personnel when necessary, or with their own insurers to extend their own cover to driving SAS vehicles, so that the absolutely best service could be provided by all involved, no, lets just ban it and to hell with consequences.

    You didn’t think it could get any more jobsworth when a few years back the story did the rounds that fire personnel, even if they were standing next to a fire station, and witnessed a situation close by where they could be of assistance with equipment held in the station. They could not use their own initiative and just do so, the situation had to be called in to the control room and authority received from them first, wasting vital minutes which could easily be the difference between life and death.

    Midder wit, which invariably leads to ‘best outcome’ situations has long since been securely bound and gagged in miles and miles of red tape.

    Reply
    • john ridland

      Spot on, well put Michael ,You wonder sometimes whose side there on….!!!!

      Reply
  8. Colin Hunter

    They may not be insured to drive the ambulances, but how much, or indeed how little, would it cost to cover them, and to say they are not trained to drive an ambulance, which is, in effect, a large van, when they probably hold an HGV licence to drive the Fire engine, is being pedantic in the extreme!

    Reply
  9. David Spence

    I think it is more to do with the ‘ legal aspect ‘ than anything else. Afterall, who would want to be sued by the patient, relatives or another service because ‘ common sense kicked in ‘ and you used your resources more efficiently?

    I suspect such a situation will become more common as Brex*hit takes greater hold, and we are at the pearl of the legal system hovering around like vultures waiting to grab at any ‘ money making opportunity ‘……….as is the USA Legal System.

    I am pretty sure if all the medical crew were attending to patients, a patient needing urgent medical attention would be thankful and grateful if one of the fire crew were taking them to Hospital, leaving the medical crew, as mentioned, to do their job. Saving a life is paramount in any scenario no matter.

    Reply
    • Ian Tinkler

      Most of the regulations are mandated by the EU. A similar stupidity was done away with in the States by Good Samaritan Laws. We now have more ambulance chasing litigation in the UK than in most States of the USA.

      Reply

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