Councillors Demand Answers Over Off-Island Ambulance Pagers

mule ambulance on bryherIt’s emerged that some of the pagers that should alert ambulance co-responders to an emergency on the off-islands haven’t been working. And one councillor says it could mean the difference between life and death.

Scilly’s Healthwatch organisation has contacted the South Western Ambulance Service Trust following concerns over missed messages, calls not being answered and delayed response times.

But Dan Marcus, who leads the Council’s Emergency Planning team, told the Authority’s Health Committee that SWAST’s reply has been, “not exactly brilliant” and that there, “hadn’t been enough forward momentum.”

Members wanted the matter resolved and they discussed how they could tackle the Ambulance Trust during an urgent agenda item in the meeting.

Officers recommended forming a small committee or single-issue group that could work solely on gathering evidence of pager system failures, which would then be presented to SWAST as evidence.

Bryher Cllr Marian Bennett thought the Council should just call the co-responders to gather the facts, then write a report and rush that document to someone who could sort it out.

But St Martin’s Cllr Christine Savill felt that a devoted, single-issue committee would have clout if SWAST didn’t reply to a letter.

And she said councillors could demand that they attend a meeting of the committee to explain the situation.

Members eventually agreed that a letter should be written and signed by committee Chairman Gordon Bilsborough, who said, “sparks will fly” if he doesn’t hear back from SWAST within a week.

We’ve asked the Ambulance Trust for a response and we’ll tell you what they say if and when they reply.

Gordon Bilsbourgh is the new chairman of the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee that deals with health care issues and liaises with the NHS and Ambulance service.

Gordon had nominated Dr Adrian Davis, but Adrian said he didn’t want it. Adrian backed Gordon for the chair and he was voted on.

11 Responses to Councillors Demand Answers Over Off-Island Ambulance Pagers

  1. Tom June 27, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    I’d also be intrigued to know how many responses to 999 calls have been delayed, and I believe that 75% of 999 responses have to be met within 7 minutes, how many of these targets have been reached on the islands???

    • Jann June 29, 2015 at 7:11 pm

      if you have the TRUE records….. none.
      Swast tried to make out a call on St Agnes was attended by the St Mary’s Paramedic in 8mins, when it was around 40mins, call to on scene. Decide yourselves.

  2. sam June 26, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    The problem with pagers is that if you miss (i.e. don’t receive) a message it is gone forever.
    Missing a mobile phone call is the same if you have no mobile coverage but a text message alert is delivered once coverage is re-established.
    Switching to mobile phone text message alerts would appear to be the sensible answer.
    Failing that fitting relay stations at enormous cost would be the only other solution.

    • Island June 28, 2015 at 9:04 pm

      Sam, the feature you speak of (getting a text if you miss a call from lack of signal) is only available on 1 or 2 networks. It’s not a default feature. Also, SMS is a notoriously unreliable way of receiving messages – although servers, by default, try to send SMS as soon as the phone re-establishes signal, some SMS messages can get delayed and take hours to get through.

      The old pagers were by far more reliable.

  3. Colin Rowley June 25, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    Co-responders in other areas are simply alerted by mobile phone from ambulance control. Do you actually need pagers?

    • confused June 26, 2015 at 11:21 am

      Mobile signal is exceedingly patchy, pagers can continue working in much lower signal areas than mobile phones can. So yes, pagers are better in this sense

    • Island June 26, 2015 at 9:29 pm

      The phone signal on much of the off-islands is patchy or non-existent. The old pagers literally saved lives being able to work in many ‘black spots’

  4. Jann June 25, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    This isn’t the first time, and won’t be the last that pagers have not worked, its been happening for years. Nothing ever gets “rushed” to be sorted out. You have no “clout” with SWAST now its a foundation trust.
    The only “sparks flying” with Gordon will be him going around in circles trying to get a reply.
    The Health committee, Health Overview committee are a joke, another example of Council
    time and money wasting.
    In 2006 you had a assurance that SWAST would report on a 6 month basis on performance and delivery of service of the Star of Life and Off-Islands… Who ever followed that up? (They never even send the first one.)
    While your banging your head on the SWAST wall, ask why the Star of Life hasn’t been running from early Jan 2015 to early June after another £100k plus wasted on it, Or why there has never been full time Paramedic cover in Scilly as SWAST are contracted to provide. and all the other issues.

    • confused June 26, 2015 at 11:25 am

      Couldnt agree with you more Jann,
      Sometimes, it would do both the members of the council and the CEO to remember that the council is tiny and has no clout and no influence. We are too small for things like that.
      As you said, the only sparks Gordon could generate are within Scilly itself as he races to public complain. All the while SWAST will in all likelyhood just ignore the angry little man from the village in the middle of the sea.

    • Tom June 26, 2015 at 3:04 pm

      Hi Jann, there is ‘full time Paramedic cover’ but only a third of the time!!!!! I believe there a more issues than as above. And I believe that SWAST have spent almost £100k on the covering vessel alone, not just the repairs. If you look at SWAST website, in bold letters it states ‘COMMITED, REPONSIVE, EFFECTIVE’, couldn’t be further from the truth! LOL

  5. Island June 25, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    It doesn’t need a committee. More bureaucratic nonsense. Just ask the lead co-responders on each island for some further details. It is very true, they don’t work nearly as well as the old pagers. Their battery life for example is appalling in comparison.