'˜Unreserved apology' as air ambulance sent to wrong islands

A health board has made an 'unreserved apology' to the family of a sick baby after an air ambulance was dispatched to the wrong islands to collect the young patient.

A Scottish Ambulance Service King Air craft was dispatched to Shetland instead of Orkney following an error at NHS Grampian. PIC: Contributed.

NHS Grampian has launched an investigation after a member of staff dispatched the King Air plane - with an incubator on board - to Shetland instead of Orkney.

After the error was discovered, the plane was forced to travel the 120 miles back to Balfour Hospital in Kirkwall, Orkney with the baby not arriving in Aberdeen until almost 10 hours after the emergency call was first made.

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Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has written to Scottish Ambulance Service Chief Executive, Pauline Howie, expressing serious concern over the incident last Friday night.

He said: “The importance of the air ambulance service to islanders cannot be overstated. All too often it can be the difference between life and death.

“Reports that a flight meant to pick up a patient in Orkney can end up in Shetland is therefore deeply concerning. Fortunately, on this occasion, no harm appears to have come to the young patient involved, but it is imperative that the investigation underway is concluded quickly and any additional safeguards necessary put in place.”

A spokesman for NHS Grampian said an error was made during the processing of transport arrangements which resulted in the Scottish Ambulance Aircraft wrongly travelling to Shetland.

A statement said: “NHS Grampian would like to apologise unreservedly to the family involved in this incident. We would also wish to apologise to our colleagues in the Scottish Ambulance Service.

“We must stress that this is an extremely unusual incident. We have seen nothing to suggest this was anything other than an isolated mistake.

“We are continuing to investigate further and co-operating with the Scottish Ambulance Service. We are contacting the family involved to keep them updated and to offer to meet with them should they wish.”

A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesman said it received a request from to retrieve a patient from hospital in Shetland at 7.05pm last Friday (March 17).

The team landed in Shetland just under three hours later - but were quickly told the patient was actually in Orkney.

A spokesman added: “Our aircraft arrived in Kirkwall at 01.44 hours to retrieve the patient from Balfour Hospital.

“The patient arrived safely at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital at 04.45 hours.

“This is an extremely unusual occurrence and we have been reviewing the circumstances around the initial request with NHS Grampian.

“We have written to the family inviting them to meet with us to discuss the circumstances around the transfer.”

It is understood the baby has since safely returned home.