‘It is essential that response times are met’

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Concerns have been raised in today’s Evening News about parts of East Lothian being “left bare” as a result of a shake-up of ambulance cover.

The Scottish Ambulance Service has confirmed that one vehicle and five members of staff have been redeployed from Haddington ambulance station to Musselburgh 11 miles away following a review of demand. And there are worries that ambulances that should be on call for North Berwick and Dunbar are increasingly being diverted to Edinburgh.

A move to make the optimum use of resources – particularly in these straitened times – is the right one. And there is little doubt this is a difficult balance to achieve.

But there must be a concern that when resources are tight all areas have an adequate service.

Emergency crews have a target response time of eight minutes, yet there are claims it can take more than 30 minutes on occasions for ambulances to arrive in parts of East Lothian.

There is now a clear need to closely monitor areas like Dunbar and North Berwick to make sure any weaknesses are quickly identified and plugged.

Are these eight minute response times being met for East Lothian’s towns and villages? It is essential that they are: lives are on the line.

Champion needed

In 2006, following an Evening News expose into shocking care standards of the elderly, one of the key recommendations of a subsequent inquiry was the appointment of a older people’s champion at Edinburgh’s flagship Royal Infirmary.

The idea was accepted, but after a year the post disappeared as health chiefs decided everything was “now fine”.

Well it is now apparent that everything is not fine. Six years on the ERI is at the centre of a mirror image scandal after a highly critical report by Healthcare Improvement Scotland. And once again Evening News readers – like former Lord Provost Norman Irons in 2006 – are contacting us with allegations of neglect of elderly relatives.

This has rightly led to renewed calls for the post to be resurrected.

One person, of course, cannot be expected to solve all the issues.

But reinstating the position would be a signal of intent from NHS Lothian, while also ensuring that there was a constant presence in the organisation championing the particular issues surrounding the care of older people. Let’s bring back our old people’s champion.