Calls are being made for a specialised air ambulance to be based in Orkney in a bid to cut the time it takes to transfer patients from the isles to hospital.
As lifeline services go, few can be as vital as those provided by Scotland's fleet of air ambulance helicopters and aircraft. On Orkney, with its remote island communities, their role is even more critical.
But if you live in one of those outlying islands and need urgent hospital treatment in Kirkwall, then it is a Scottish Ambulance Service helicopter based in Inverness that will get you there. Meanwhile, Orcadian patients with more serious conditions are flown from Kirkwall to hospital on the Scottish mainland by an aircraft based in Aberdeen.
According to Orkney's MSP, that arrangement is not good enough. He wants a locally based aircraft to cut patient transfer times and has raised his concerns with the Scottish Ambulance Service.
MSP Liam McArthur said: “Without a locally based air ambulance in Orkney the ability of the service to respond to the needs of patients in Orkney, and indeed other parts of the region, is hampered. This is an argument I will continue to make.”
Air ambulance services in Orkney used to be provided by locally based Loganair Islander aircraft. The Scottish Ambulance Service says the current arrangements are a vast improvement
Garry Fraser of the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “There’s real benefits to the patients in the new helicopters that we have coming and the redesign of the fixed wing aircrafts, and certainly for Orkney, we’ll be able to respond to all of Orkney including the outer isles within 60 minutes.”
Whilst the new air ambulance contract will allow for locally based Loganair planes to transfer non-emergency patients between the islands and Kirkwall, it does now look as if hopes for a specialised aircraft in Orkney have been well and truly grounded.