'My boyfriend was knocking on the hospital doors but nobody was coming'

Eilidh Beaton thought she was going to die after suffering an allergic reaction on the Isle of Skye.

NHS Highland is to submit a plan to deliver 24/7 urgent care at a hospital on the Isle of Skye after two serious incidents involving a lack of emergency services.

A woman died and another suffered a serious allergic reaction after they had both attended the Skye Live music festival on May 11.

Both incidents were treated as emergencies and ambulances were called, but the response has drawn attention to the level of care available in the area.

In 2018, a review by Dr Sir Lewis Ritchie recommended the out-of-hours service at the facility should be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

NHS Highland says it will submit its plan to deliver 24/7 urgent care in Portree to the Scottish Government on Friday.

Portree Community Hospital.STV News

A spokesperson said: “We met with SOS-NHS Skye in Portree Hospital last month and it was helpful to hear and understand the concerns of community members.

“At that time, the new CEO, Fiona Davies, and chair, Sarah Compton-Bishop underlined our commitment to completing the outstanding recommendations of the Sir Lewis Ritchie review, including urgent care provision in north Skye. 

“Please note that urgent care is distinct from emergency care, which will continue to be provided from Broadford Hospital and accessed by calling 999.”

‘He was knocking on the doors to no avail’

Eilidh Beaton had enjoyed a day of live music on the Isle of Skye and was enjoying a few drinks at the pub with friends when her airway started to close.

The allergic reaction she had suffered was just the start of an ordeal that left her feeling like she was going to die.

It quickly transpired that all three available ambulances in the area were already on other calls and nearby Portree Community Hospital was closed.

That sparked a frantic rescue effort among Eilidh’s friends as they tried to locate urgent medical supplies.

Eilidh told STV News: “I just think it’s mental that the hospital is literally up the hill, 200 yards away from where we were.

“All they had to do was carry me up there and I would have been in a lot better state than I was in, because I was just getting worse and worse and worse.”

Eilidh had been enjoying live music at the Skye Live festival earlier this month before heading to the pub to meet friends.

She started to feel dizzy and hives broke out on her arm.

Eilidh said: “My partner went away to phone the ambulance and they said it was going to come from Kyle (of Lochalsh), which is about 30 miles away, and that we were going to have to wait.

“The staff outside the pub managed to flag down the coastguard, who happened to be passing, they were heading up to the festival. They came into help but they didn’t really have any of the stuff that was needed.

“They paged the lifeboat and it just happened that one of the lifeboat boys is an advanced nurse practitioner and they knew he was up at the festival anyway, so when he came down the hill they flagged him in to come and help.”

He analysed the situation and sent the coastguard to the hospital for urgent medical supplies.

“He was banging on the hospital doors but they were locked when he got up there,” said Eilidh. “He was knocking on the doors to no avail, nobody was coming.

The lifeboat crew went out onto the lifeboat, which was moored at sea, to get oxygen and other supplies, while Eilidh’s partner went back to the hospital.

Eilidh’s partner was then contacted by 999 – he had phoned them in the first place – where he asked for an update to the situation.

“He said ‘look, I’m outside Portree Hospital, I can’t get in and we need equipment’ and they said ‘right, we’ll phone the hospital.'”

Portree Community Hospital.STV News

Eventually, somebody came to the door and Eilidh’s partner was allowed in to get what he needed. However, by the time he returned to the pub, the coastguard had already sourced supplies from elsewhere.

“I was on the floor going in and out of consciousness by this point. I wasn’t truly aware of what was happening but I was kind of hearing the conversation going back and forth, the seriousness in their voices.

“The ambulance arrived eventually after 40 minutes, they took me down to Broadford Hospital, but by that point I had had epiPens and I had had oxygen and was pretty much stabilised.

“They re-stabilised me in the ambulance and took me down to the hospital.”

Eilidh is among islanders who have been campaiging for improved services.

She said: “We’re hearing all these words but we’ve heard these words for six years – since the Lewis Ritchie report came out – and there’s been no action, so fingers crossed this one actually works and something happens.

“There has been quite a lot of incidences, close calls, but nobody has really spoken up about it. Somebody had put a Facebook post up – not mentioning my name, just to say what had happened and it got a lot of traction. It was at that point we thought ‘I guess we should speak up about this and see what happens’.

“It’s just mental with tourists and cruise ships. They’re coming off the cruise ships into Portree and there’s no hospital or anything for them to go to – they can’t even go to the GPs surgery without appointments, so they’re having to get a taxi all the way out to Broadford and that’s going to cost you to get seen and then get back to Portree.”

‘Champion of live music’

Tributes have also been paid to a “mainstay” of Scotland’s music scene following her death at Skye Live festival.

Heather Aird has been described by musicians as a ”beautiful soul”, “champion of live music” and a “constant in the Scottish music scene”.

While attending Skye Live, she became unwell shortly before midnight and emergency services were called.

Paramedics attended the scene at the Am Meall peninsula – known as the Lump – where she was pronounced dead.

Heather Aird.Facebook

‘Deep concern’ over emergency care

Last week, First Minister John Swinney spoke of his “deep concern” over the availability of emergency care on Skye.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross raised Ms Beaton’s case during First Minister’s Questions, asking Swinney if he accepted “this should never be allowed to happen”.

“As Mr Ross will be aware, Portree Hospital is not operating currently as a 24/7 emergency facility.

“Sir Lewis Ritchie recommended some years ago that it should be and it is a matter of deep concern to the Government that that has not happened.

“The health secretary spoke to the leadership of NHS Highland yesterday to make it clear that we want that to happen at the earliest possible opportunity.”

The First Minister also shared the “admiration and appreciation” of the Scottish Government to those who helped Ms Beaton in her plight, including a Coastguard team.

Getty Images

“We all have admiration for those who stepped in to help but it should never have gotten to that stage,” Ross replied.

Pressed on why the recommendation has not been followed six years after the review, Swinney clarified there was a three-year period where the hospital was open overnight, but that has since changed because of staffing issues, which the First Minister accepted was “not good enough”.

The review also said the Scottish Ambulance Service should improve its presence in the area.

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