A contingency plan has been announced for when an ambulance is not available in Harris during a medical emergency out of hours.

NHS Western Isles today confirmed that a list was being put together of off-duty GPs, paramedics and nurse practitioners who were prepared to be called by the Scottish Ambulance in the event of the ambulance being 'out of area'.

Dr Angus McKellar, Medical Director, said: "I have put my name on that list – as a GP, not Medical Director – and so has Dr Anthony Latham. 

 "The SAS have also confirmed that all Tarbert-based staff – including technicians as well as paramedics – are willing to be called during off-duty periods.

“I’m delighted with this development. I think it’s a good move.

“It is also worth noting that additional capacity (both GP and Community Unscheduled Care Nurse), in terms of hours of availability, has been in place in the Out of Hours service since the public consultation during the pilot phase."

Dr McKellar said that the Scottish Ambulance Service had confirmed they were willing to work with NHS Western Isles to train paramedics in order to provide initial assessments of patients, if necessary, who need to be seen promptly but not as emergencies.

“This would provide additional capacity and would potentially remove the need for Community Unscheduled Care Nurses to travel down from Stornoway. This is dependent on further training and will take some time to implement," he commented.

A meeting in Harris on Monday evening revealed the community's concern at the lack of communication between NHS24 and the health services on the ground in the Western Isles.

It was proposed at the meeting that a first point of contact should be established locally, to both reassure the caller and to then determine whether the incident should go to NHS 24 or to 999.

 Dr McKellar added: “The meeting on Monday night was positive. So much of this is about trust and people having confidence in the service we provide. We hope these new developments will help in that regard.

“Personally, I stay in Harris. I’ve got a great desire to see the community content but I also know what is possible and what is not possible. The community, I think, are beginning to see what’s possible.

“We have to move on from demands to have what cannot be had and I am really encouraged that the community seem to be starting to see what the limits of possibility are so that we can work together to improve the service.

“The new developments are very positive for the emergency situation, to give reassurance to the community, and I think there’s a definite shift in public engagement.”