A PARAMEDIC who stopped to do personal shopping while responding to an urgent call has been cleared of misconduct.
A fitness to practice hearing found the case against Victoria Arnott “not well founded” after being told she had simply visited a chemist when she began to feel unwell.
The three-member panel ruled the former Scottish Ambulance service worker had stopped to pick up medication on 4 July last year because she wanted to continue to work in the interest of patients.
Ms Arnott had been allocated a doctor’s urgent call to attend the home of a depressed and suicidal woman in Lochgelly, Fife, and take her to Queen Margaret Hospital in Dunfermline.
Questions were raised after a delay of seven minutes was noted by her colleagues in the ambulance control centre.
The conduct and competence committee of the Health and Care Professions Council heard Ms Arnott told colleagues that, while en route from Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, she decided to stop at PC World on the Fife retail park to pick up something for her computer.
However, in her evidence to the panel, the paramedic said she had been too embarrassed to tell them about her health issues in case she became the subject of gossip.
She said she had been “pretty poorly” from the start of her 12-hour shift at about 7am that day and began feeling increasingly “frustrated and distracted”.
Ms Arnott, who joined the service in 1999, said she had stopped to pick up over-the-counter medication for women.
She admitted she had not asked permission to stop and said this was because she was “not thinking straight”.
Panel members said they found her to be an “extremely credible, reliable and professional” witness.
Earlier in the hearing, Ms Arnott admitted stopping en route to the woman’s home to do personal shopping without seeking authorisation from the control centre, but denied misusing an ambulance for personal purposes.
The panel ruled that it had not been proven that the ambulance was misused because there was no clear Scottish Ambulance Service policy for employees on the issue of stops.
Panel chairwoman Sarah Baalham said: “It would be reasonable to conclude that, if the registrant had sought permission beforehand, the ambulance control centre would have allowed a brief diversion off route for personal reasons related to, for example, ill-health.
“We have determined that, on the balance of probabilities, her need to obtain some medication to enable her to continue work was the true reason for her need to delay the ambulance.”
The panel heard that the call was at the second lowest level of priority for the service, with a response window of four hours.
It had initially been received by the control room at 11:41am and was not allocated to Ms Arnott’s crew until 3:35pm.
The patient had been allocated for transportation only and was not put at risk because there was “little or no need” for medical intervention by ambulance crew, the panel was told.
“This matter was a departure from the standards to be expected from a paramedic but, in the panel’s judgment, it was not so serious to merit the description ‘misconduct’,” Ms Baalham said.
“She accepted with hindsight that she might have done things differently and was motivated by a desire to continue to provide a service for patients.”
Ms Arnott had “full insight” into what was an “isolated incident” in an otherwise unblemished career, the panel said.
“This case is not well founded,” it concluded.
Ms Arnott continues to work as a paramedic with a new employer and is studying for a degree in professional practice at the University of Stirling, the hearing was told. She declined to comment on the panel’s decision.
The Scottish Ambulance Service confirmed Ms Arnott is no longer an employee.