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.
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.”
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