Flying doctor service to be rolled out across whole of Scotland
SCOTLAND's flying doctor service is to be extended to cover all remote areas of the country.
The service was initially based in the Western Isles and west coast areas when it was launched in 2008.
But the Scottish Government today confirmed the Emergency Medical Retrieval Service (EMRS) is being rolled out to cover all remote and rural parts of the country from today.
It will now be increased to two Glasgow-based teams, with the number of doctors rising from eight to 15.
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: "Getting the best possible medical help to a critically-ill patient, or someone who has been seriously injured, as rapidly as possible can significantly improve their chances of making a full recovery.
"But critical illness or injury can strike anywhere and patients are often some distance from the essential medical treatment they need.
"That's where the EMRS comes in - experienced accident and emergency or intensive care consultants fly to patients in remote and rural communities.
"This early intervention can make the difference between life and death and that is why we have decided to establish Scotland's flying doctors as a national service, delivering first-class healthcare to all rural parts of the country."
The service will cost £2 million a year to run and be staffed by air paramedics and consultants who are specialists in emergency medicine.
They will have access to two helicopters and two planes used by the air ambulance and fly across Scotland to treat critically-ill patients. Highland and Orkney and Shetland are the key areas which will now come under its scope.
The team has undertaken 565 retrievals and given advice to a further 469 patients over the past two years.
The decision to expand the service was taken after an evaluation of the pilot programme concluded that it offered good quality healthcare, value-for-money in terms of benefits for patients and significant support for healthcare staff working in remote areas.
David Stoddart, an emergency medicine consultant based at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, is a founder member of the service.
He said: "There is no doubt that lives have been saved because the EMRS is available.
"Patients are treated more rapidly by specialist doctors and, as a result, their long-term recovery and quality of life is much improved."
Dr Intesar Malik, a consultant at Caithness General Hospital, welcomed its extension, adding: "It will help to ensure people in remote and rural areas can get access to specialist care as safely and as quickly as possible."