Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has asked the Government to ensure that plans are fully developed and briefed for intensive care transport for the Northern Isles during the coronavirus outbreak. Patients in Shetland who require intensive care are usually transported by air ambulance to mainland Scotland but military assets are planned to be used in the case of coronavirus. Mr Carmichael raised the issue of preparations for this eventuality during a statement by the Secretary of State for Health on Monday evening.
Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“In Shetland we have 15 of the 171 confirmed cases in Scotland. That is almost 9%, from an island community of 22,000. In normal circumstances, anyone requiring intensive care in Shetland is taken by air ambulance to mainland Scotland. Because of the nature of coronavirus, we cannot do that. I understand that military assets will be engaged for that transportation, but clinicians tell me that there is no understanding of the protocols and there has not yet even been a dress rehearsal.
“Will the Secretary of State speak to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence to ensure that all necessary communication happens to ensure that when the service is needed, it will work?”
Responding, the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock MP, said:
“Yes, I will. We will make sure that we support people on all parts of these islands, including all islands that are part of these islands.”
Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:
“It is welcome that the Government plans to give special attention to intensive care transport for the isles. My concern, however, is that we use the time we have effectively, before the situation becomes more severe.
“The use of military assets to supplement air ambulance services is necessary and proportionate. It is essential that all involved are fully briefed and prepared ahead of that eventuality. I would encourage the Government to work closely with everyone involved to ensure absolute clarity on these plans.”