The Coastguard have stepped in to assist the Scottish Ambulance Service on Harris which has been affected by staff shortages.

Murdo Macaulay, HM Coastguard Operations Area Commander for the Western Isles, Skye and Lochaber, said on Twitter: “We were pleased to be able to assist @Scotambservice in maintaining service during staff shortage. In this instance not Covid-related but proves the value of thorough preparation and forging good working relationships before they are needed.”

Earlier the Coastguard service announced that that they “completed a programme of mutual aid work with the Scottish Ambulance Service the Western Isles, supporting our emergency service colleagues with trained drivers during #COVID19.”

This completed a programme of mutual aid support work, helping the SAS with trained drivers, as an extension to work done in the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Between Wednesday 21st October and Saturday 24th October, coastguard drivers assisted the ambulance service to crew their vehicles as part of support to the Scottish Ambulance Service's resilience plans. These double-crewed ambulances had one Coastguard (driving) and one Ambulance Service clinician to maintain essential cover in Harris.

This work, which included helping the ambulance service with both planned patient transfers and emergency calls, follows the extensive mutual aid training which was completed by HM Coastguard and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service personnel over the course of July and August to support the Scottish Ambulance Service.

From safe moving-and-handling techniques for patients and equipment transfers to infection control and Personal Protective Equipment guidance, Coastguard staff learnt a whole new range of new skills. On top of that, safety-focused ambulance driving lessons were also carried out.

Murdo Macaulay said: “We are proud to have supported and assisted a fellow category one emergency service partner, the Scottish Ambulance Service, through an important period of continued work to build on preparations made during the coronavirus crisis.

“It is really imperative that we come together and work to support our local communities during these challenging times.”

He added: “Our Coastguard Rescue Officers…have benefitted hugely from new training experiences and have relished the opportunity to build their skills bases while benefitting their communities.”