It never really occurred to me, or rather, I never spent any time pondering the existence of emergency services, on the Isles of Scilly in general, and on Tresco in particular, until recently, that is, when I had reason to avail of them. As a holiday maker, visitor, or temporary resident on Tresco, which has no hospital or clinic, and no doctor except for a few hours on a Tuesday morning, it is worth asking the question ‘What procedures, if any, are in place to deal with an emergency?’�
Having been working elsewhere on the island for the previous week and a half, it was pleasant to be back working in Tresco Abbey Garden, but not for long, as I lost my footing in the Mediterranean Garden and landed on my back on some steps. Afraid to move in case I would damage my spine, I tentatively checked if I could wiggle my toes and move my feet. I decided to get up (foolishly or not) with the assistance of my co-worker Cora, who then left me holding my back while she went off for help. She found Dave Hamilton, vegetable gardener, first aider and part time fireman, who contacted Rosie Felton, gardener and Community Responder. Rosie seemed to materialise out of thin air in jig time. She contacted 999 Emergency Services which is on the mainland, in case I had done some damage to my back. Within a few minutes two guys in green overalls were making their way towards us, complete with emergency kit. When they neared us, we recognised them – Richard Hobbs, Cottage Services Manager, and Jon Fisher, from the Cottage Department, both voluntary Community Responders. By the time they’d established what had happened, taken my pulse, blood pressure, checked my back and covered me in blankets, Karen Johnson, Ambulance Technician, arrived from St. Marys. Karen asked me some questions and checked my back. I was able to stand but unable to raise my right leg, so I was strapped into a chair and carried down to the garden entrance where the Tresco ambulance was waiting to transfer me to the ambulance boat ‘The Star of Life’. At the quay in St Marys, there was another ambulance waiting to take me to the hospital where I received the appropriate treatment. Later on that morning, rather ambitiously leaving the hospital on foot, having declined the offer of transport back to St. Marys quay, Cora and I walked at a snail’s pace down the hill to the town where we took the next boat back to Tresco.
Since that day, I wanted to find out more about the service provided by Emergency Services on the Isles of Scilly, and this is what I found out:
When a 999 emergency call is made on the Isles of Scilly, it is connected to Ambulance Control in Exeter. While the caller is talking to Ambulance Control, emergency services on St Marys and Community Responders on the off-island are already being informed of an incident and its whereabouts. The Community Responders will get to the caller within 8 minutes. By the time the Ambulance Technician from St. Marys gets to the scene- usually 15-20 minutes – they know exactly what they’re going to do. Within 45 minutes to one hour the casualty is being treated in St. Mary’s hospital. In case of a major trauma or break, there is the option of using the Air Ambulance to transfer the casualty to a hospital on the mainland.
There are 26 off-island Community First Responders who volunteer their services free of charge and are on call around the clock. On each of the islands there is transport for casualties – on Tresco it is a long wheel base Land Rover fully equipped as per mainland ambulances. There is a dedicated boat ambulance the ‘Star of Life’, which is under the responsibility of the South West Ambulance Service. It is a catamaran for stability for working with patients inside, and to facilitate beach landings where a jetty or quay is unavailable. Its aft deck is big enough to get a winching stretcher down if necessary. There is a sea beaching area at the back of the boat so that a person in the water can be easily pulled onto the boat. It has a metre clearance around the cabin should it be necessary to carry or wheel someone on. The interior of the cabin is the same as a road ambulance so that when mainland crew members are on duty they know exactly where everything is.
Finally, I would like to say a big THANK YOU to all the emergency services personnel who helped me recently, and to all the emergency services personnel on the Isles of Scilly, whether paid or volunteers, for the exceptional work they do, in maintaining the highest standards in this vital service.