Hospital patients are facing longer journeys in ambulances because of the loss of a local control centre, The Southern has been told.
A patient transport service (PTS) crew member has also claimed the closure of the centre in Melrose last year, and centralisation of staff at Edinburgh, led to patients not being picked up and some being left behind at hospitals.
The PTS employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “On behalf of the ambulance crews, I apologise for being part of a service that seems to be ignoring the many patients who have not been picked up for appointments or have been picked up late, sometimes two hours or more, resulting in them not receiving proper treatment. Quite a number have also been left at hospital after their appointments.”
He added: “Patients should not be on an ambulance for over two hours. It’s not a bus tour, it’s an ambulance service.”
He alleged long journeys occurred because of staff and vehicle shortages and because call-takers did not know the area, so that patients from places as far apart as Hawick and Eyemouth sometimes had to be taken together.
The crew member called a new booking system a “shambles” and said some who should be receiving transport were “falling through the net”.
He added that staff had complained to management but their views and suggestions had been ignored.
A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesman said a new direct booking and management system meant patients could discuss their requirements with specially trained staff and it provided a more “personal service” and met patients’ needs better.
He added: “As in any rural part of Scotland, some patients who are furthest away from hospital will have longer journeys, but there is no indication that patients are travelling further than they need to since the changes were introduced.
“If a crew cannot take a patient home, which may be because a clinic is running late, then they advise ambulance control and they will arrange another resource to take the patient, who will not be left at hospital.”
He said: “There has been no change to the number of staff and vehicles delivering the PTS service in the Borders and throughout the period of change managers arranged several forums for staff to attend and discuss any concerns they may have, and continue to engage routinely with staff.”