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Alderney to start again with ambulance service

Alderney | Published:

ALDERNEY Ambulance Service has been dissolved after its board concluded that it was no longer safe or sustainable.

Former chief ambulance officer Mel Walden talking to Alderney States members this week. (Picture by Emma Pinch)

A new model of emergency service is to be developed, with St John Guernsey continuing to provide cover in the short term.

The decision followed a critical review of the service, commissioned jointly by the States of Alderney and the Alderney Ambulance board, carried out at the end of November, with the findings presented to members of both bodies on 2 December.

Many of the failings that reviewer Richard Webber highlighted related to poorly maintained equipment.

This included defibrillators on both ambulances that did not work, with one having a flat battery and the other an expired battery, one never serviced and the other past its service date, and a suction device that did not function.

Inadequacies in the clinical assessment of patients, the absence of a medical director and having equipment in use that was beyond the scope of emergency technicians were other findings noted.

Chief ambulance officer Mel Walden, who has been an ambulance volunteer for 28 years, was sacked immediately by the board, following one of the recommendations in the review. The move prompted all eight crew members to suspend their services in protest.

The eight-day strike saw three Guernsey paramedics drafted in to provide cover.

After seven days of stalemate, the board informed the States of Alderney that Alderney Ambulance Service was no longer able to provide a safe and sustainable ambulance service for Alderney.

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The review was carried out when, after providing cover in mid-August, Guernsey’s chief ambulance officer and some operational staff raised a number of significant concerns.

That followed a number of reviews that made recommendations as to the most appropriate operational and organisational arrangements for the future.

It recommended that a doctor or paramedic be sent out to the most serious two categories of calls, such as cardiac arrest, a stroke or chest pain, and that all other urgent calls be discussed with a health care professional.

They also recommended that a new operational and training chief officer be appointed and that a paramedic be seconded for three months to provide a safer service and mentor volunteers.

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The States of Alderney went further and, after an emergency Policy and Finance meeting on Wednesday, announced it would undertake a root-and-branch overhaul of the service.

‘The States of Alderney considers that this situation is unacceptable and that these issues are of the highest importance in ensuring the safety of the island,’ a spokesman said.

‘In view of the decision of the Alderney Ambulance Service Ltd, the States is now taking the following urgent steps: establishing a model for a new ambulance service for Alderney, which would have appropriate clinical and professional governance and could be managed in parallel with the States of Alderney Fire Service, and inviting volunteers who wish to serve the community in providing an ambulance service to contact the States of Alderney.’

St John Ambulance in Guernsey and other key stakeholders will put together a safe and viable service in the short term.

The dissolution prompted passionate scenes at the monthly meeting of the States of Alderney.

Mrs Walden lobbied States members, the President, William Tate, and the public, imploring them to hear her counter claims to the findings of the report.

Juliet Pouteaux

By Juliet Pouteaux
News reporter

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