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Inter-hospital ambulance transfers predicted to double admit ambulance chiefs

5th April 2017

Ambulance bosses are admitting that inter-hospital transfers from Caithness General are estimated to double this year from the number recorded four to five years ago.

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has now received an answer to a question sent on 8th December last year asking the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) for details of transfers.

The SAS answer, dated 4th April, says in 2012/2013 431 were recorded but projected for this year are 656, an extra 225 transfers and a 52% increase. The service has said the majority were to Raigmore Hospital.

However, the number of maternity transfers, to Inverness or Aberdeen, was "not held within" its management system and could not be made within the timescale of the MSP's request, according to SAS.

"It is interesting that SAS has just announced a £400,000 investment with NHS Highland to increase ambulance provision in Caithness," commented Mrs Grant.

“These figures speak for themselves and show just how much strain ambulance staff are feeling in the Far North.

“The ambulance service did apologise that my original letter “did not reach them” but it is unfortunate that I didn't receive the figures earlier this year when the situation was being raised by concerned constituents.

“I fear that investment in remote and rural areas is not being considered by the Scottish Government’s ever increasing centralised health service. I will keep campaigning to remind the Government that areas in the Highlands and Islands should not be forgotten.

“And, while I welcome the additional investment made last week, I am now left wondering if this will come anywhere close to meeting demand.”

Mrs Grant has continued to ask questions about the pressure on the service and the resources available. In early 2016 she received inter-hospital transfer figures which then showed there had been a nearly 25% increase in such transfers from Caithness General Hospital over three years.

Chairman of Caithness Health Action Team (CHAT) Bill Fernie said,"I agree entirely with Mrs Grant regarding transfers and the pressure on the north ambulance service. What is happening in our health services is yet another centralisation that means much more travelling for patients and their families. The maternity services have recently been highlighted but we can see it is happening across the board. We at CHAT are happy to see increased investment in ambulance services although we still wait to hear if that means an actual ambulance vehicle being added. We remain very concerned that so many women now have to go to Raigmore to give birth but we are also looking at changes in other parts of the health service and the possibility for reduction in place like the Dunbar Hospital. Our concerns are justified by the announcement last week about the £100million of saving that NHS Highland are to make over the coming 3 years. Scottish Government should be more upfront about what it can do to alleviate the problems that health services are facing."

The latest figures from SAS highlight:

· 2012/2013 - 431 hospital transfers

· 2013/2014 - 496 hospital transfers

· 2014/2015 - 542 hospital transfers

· 2015/2016 - 616 hospital transfers

· 2016/2017 - 656 (projected) hospital transfers

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