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Politics: Every second is vital for patients in the north-east

By David Porter

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The decision to allow primary 1-3 pupils back to school this week should be the first of several cautious but positive steps back towards normality.

MP David Duguid
MP David Duguid

This may come as a relief for many parents for whom home schooling can be a challenge – particularly with multiple children.

And those dropping children off at school must remember to comply with all other lockdown measures that remain in place.

The return to school coincided with another milestone in the UK-wide vaccination effort.

At the weekend, the UK Government reported that 17.5million people – more than a third of all adults across the country – have now received their first vaccine.

It is now hoped that all adults across the UK should be offered a vaccine by July 31.

And in a study published on Monday by Public Health Scotland, evidence has emerged that the Pfizer and Astra Zeneca vaccines are reducing hospital admissions by 85% and 94% respectively.

That is very encouraging indeed and will help to ease the pressure on our NHS.

It also provides a level of confidence that we can proceed with phased reopening of the economy over the coming weeks and months.

At the time of writing, the Scottish Government has not yet published its roadmap out of the current Covid restrictions, but the First Minister said on Monday it is expected to be broadly in line with the approach in the rest of the UK.

The big difference so far is around the dates for schools reopening.

The UK Government is looking to fully re-open schools on March 8, but the Scottish Government has decided to allow some pupils back now and the rest from March 15 onwards.

There is a danger that this kind of inconsistency causes confusion and could lead to non-compliance with the rules.

And speaking of rules, I would remind everyone that has been vaccinated to remember that it takes two to three weeks for the jab to take effect and, although we know it helps avoid serious illness, we are not sure yet how much being vaccinated reduces risk of transmission.

Finally, I was very concerned to read in the news earlier this week that a lack of bed capacity at ARI has led to an increase in the amount of time ambulances spend waiting outside.

As many as 83% are missing the turn-around time target of 20 minutes.

This is partly due to the amount of beds set aside because of the pandemic, but the health board has admitted this was a problem pre-Covid.

For areas like Turriff, that extra time could be vital when responding to an emergency.

Every second counts in an emergency, and Turriff is already at a disadvantage because it does not have an ambulance station.

This lack of provision and the impact on 999 response times is something I have raised time and time again since becoming an MP.

There is also a cumulative impact from the removal of services over a period of years. The most recent example is the temporary closure of the minor injury unit at Turriff Hospital

I understand that the pandemic has led to changes in the way health services are being delivered, but I remain concerned about the situation in Turriff and I will do my best to ensure local services are protected.

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