McArthur responds to NHS Grampian statement on air ambulance mistake

Responding to NHS Grampian's statement acknowledging that an error by one of its staff had resulted in an air ambulance recently being sent to Shetland rather than Orkney to pick up a young patient, Orkney's MSP Liam McArthur said:

"This incident understandably raised serious concerns with people in Orkney, and the agencies involved were right to initiate urgent investigations.

"NHS Grampian's confirmation that this situation arose as a result of a mistake by one of its staff is helpful and I welcome the board's offer to meet with the family involved to discuss any concerns in more detail. The apology to the SAS crew is also entirely appropriate, given that they were clearly blameless in what happened.

"Obviously, the risk of human error is difficult to remove entirely, but if lessons can be learned from this event, it is important that this happens".


Notes to editors:

Please see below a statement from NHS Grampian and the Scottish Ambulance Service following the incident on March 17th.

An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said:

"NHS Grampian would like to apologise unreservedly to the family involved in this incident. We would also wish to apologise to our colleagues in the Scottish Ambulance Service.

Following an initial analysis of the timeline of last Friday's events it is clear that a member of NHS Grampian staff made an error during the process of arranging transport. This led to the Scottish Ambulance Service aircraft wrongly travelling to Shetland. We must stress that this is an extremely unusual incident. We have seen nothing to suggest this was anything other than an isolated mistake.

We are continuing to investigate further and co-operating with the Scottish Ambulance Service. We are contacting the family involved to keep them updated and to offer to meet with them should they wish. ”

A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesperson said:

“We received a request from a member of NHS Grampian staff in Aberdeen at 19.05 hours on Friday 17 March to retrieve a patient from hospital in Shetland.

“We dispatched our fixed wing air ambulance from Aberdeen and it dropped off our team and equipment in Shetland at 21.57 hours.

“Shortly after arriving in Shetland, our team was advised that the patient they had been sent to retrieve was actually in Orkney.

“Once we were made aware of the error, our fixed wing air ambulance returned to Shetland to transfer the team and equipment to Orkney.

“Our aircraft arrived in Kirkwall at 01.44 hours to retrieve the patient from Balfour Hospital.

“The patient arrived safely at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital at 04.45 hours.

“This is an extremely unusual occurrence and we have been reviewing the circumstances around the initial request with NHS Grampian.

“We have written to the family inviting them to meet with us to discuss the circumstances around the transfer.”


McArthur requests action following air ambulance mistake

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has today written to Scottish Ambulance Service Chief Executive, Pauline Howie, expressing serious concern at reports that a recent air ambulance flight, responding to a call out in Orkney, flew instead to Shetland.

The air ambulance, with an incubator on board, was called to the aid of an infant last Friday night (17th March). Fortunately, according to SAS, the patient was eventually “transferred safely to hospital in Aberdeen by air.” An investigation is now underway.

Mr McArthur suggested that such an incident, which SAS has described as an “extremely unusual occurrence”, risks damaging public confidence and stressed the urgency of finding out what went wrong and ensuring it cannot happen again.

Commenting after writing to the Scottish Ambulance Service, Mr McArthur said:

“The importance of the air ambulance service to islanders cannot be overstated. All too often it can be the difference between life and death.

“Reports that a flight meant to pick up a patient in Orkney can end up in Shetland is therefore deeply concerning. Fortunately, on this occasion, no harm appears to have come to the young patient involved, but it is imperative that the investigation underway is concluded quickly and any additional safeguards necessary put in place.

“There must be no question of this sort of thing happening again. That is the assurance I have sought and hope to receive from the Chief Executive of SAS”.



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