Thursday, February 01, 2007

It just got a bit more complicated

It has been done by The Sun and now The Scotsman has picked it up.

We are told that patients in Scotland will die as a result of European (EU) rules governing work breaks for ambulance crews. This was claimed yesterday by union leaders, who are warning that huge swathes of country were being left without adequate emergency cover in the wake of a new pay-and-conditions deal.

The paper cited an incident that occurred yesterday when an ailing elderly woman, who later suffered a stroke, waited almost two hours for an ambulance to arrive. The closest ambulance crew was on a rest break in Duns - about 16 miles from the patient’s home in Eyemouth so a vehicle had to be sent from Kelso, more than 30 miles away. Its crew had difficulty finding her home.

It is also understood by the newspaper that last week, an Aberdeen-based crew could not be dispatched to assist a heart attack victim only a few hundred yards from a station where they were on a break.

All of this is good propaganda for the Eurosceptics, so who are we to complain at the prospect of headlines declaring: "EU rules kill patients" (even if the NHS is quite capable of doing that unaided).

However, as we reported in our earlier piece, it is a lot more complicated than is made out. Not least, some ambulance authorities are unaffected by what is supposed to be a law with uniform application throughout the EU.

There are plenty of things for which we can blame the EU but this, on careful examination, does not appear to be one of them – although the Working Time Directive is a complicating factor. And as we have found to our cost, wrongly putting the EU in the frame sometimes backfires.

So, if life is already complicated, it just got a bit more so.


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