Orkney's MSP, Liam McArthur, has sought assurances from the Health Secretary about future support for first responders in island communities.
It follows concerns raised by responders in a number of the North Isles who have talked of leaving the service. In some instances, this is due to frustration at inconsistencies in the way responders in different islands are treated by the Scottish Ambulance Service. Others are concerned about increased responsibility being placed on responders as a result of potential changes in healthcare provision in the isles.
Speaking during Health and Social Care Questions, Mr McArthur called for the Cabinet Secretary to ensure that NHS Orkney and SAS are supported, including financially, to develop models that work in an island context and provide greater consistency of support to community responders.
In response, while noting the different arrangements between some island communities, Humza Yousaf confirmed that the Scottish Ambulance Service has assured him that "they are committed to working with NHS Orkney and local communities to find a suitable resolution around this issue".
Commenting afterwards, Mr McArthur said:
"Community responders play a vital role in Orkney and I pay tribute to the work they do in helping keep our communities safe. It is concerning, therefore, that some first responders are considering leaving the service for a variety of reasons.
"While each island community is different, first responders deserve to receive consistent support from SAS, from training and the provision of equipment through to payment. Equally, care needs to be taken not to overload responders with responsibilities that are more appropriately carried out by medical professionals.
"I have been in discussion with SAS and NHS Orkney about these issues over recent months and a joint meeting is planned for next month. It will be important too that community representatives are closely involved in the process of finding solutions that meet their needs.
"Meantime, I welcome the Health Secretary’s acknowledgment of the concerns raised and his intention to remain engaged as these discussions are taken forward."