THE Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) has claimed its plans for an ambulance station at the Borders General Hospital site would increase the chances of patient survival by up to a fifth, writes Kenny Paterson.
SAS has appealed to the Scottish Government after the council’s planning committee rejected its bid for a new station at land north-west of the hospital, named site A, in November.
Councillors based their ruling on concerns about the removal of important woodland and access to the Melrose bypass, arguing that a site (F) beside Huntlyburn House in the BGH’s grounds would provide faster response times.
But an SAS spokesman said the use of Optima, hi-tech software package, had shown site A would prove quicker for paramedic crews to attend emergencies than site F.
He claimed the difference would be 19 seconds for Borders-wide call-outs and 25 seconds faster for incidents in Galashiels. The new station is due to replace the ageing depot at the town’s Roxburgh Street.
The spokesman added: “In real terms, SAS’s review of Optima’s findings affirms that site F would result in a reduction of a patient’s chance of survival by 14-20 per cent, notwithstanding resultant safety issues associated with the adjoining nursery use.”
SAS also argued that council landscape architect Jim Knight was wrong to say site A would have an impact on the national scenic area (NSA), which includes the nearby Eildon Hills.
The spokesman added: “The site, through retention of an 8-10m woodland belt around the site, does not adversely impact the national scenic area with the expert statutory consultee, Scottish National Heritage, through its assessment, saying: ‘The proposal will not have an adverse effect on the integrity of the NSA or the qualities for which it has been designated’.”
A Scottish Borders Council spokesman said ambulance chiefs’ decision to appeal was “extremely regrettable”.
He added: “Whilst it remains sympathetic to the desire of the ambulance service to establish a new site, the council remains of the view that better sites exist and will therefore be seeking to defend its decision robustly through the appeal process.”
As well as quicker response times – with SAS only reaching 62 per cent of life-threatening calls within its eight minute target from its Galashiels station – the move to the BGH would also allow NHS Borders to build its new £1.8million Roxburgh Street health centre in the forthcoming financial year.