Support for Forth Valley NHS
As significant snowfall affected the central part of Scotland and following initial assistance given on the previous evening, the Corps was requested to supply transport for the Night Nurse Service covering the central Scotland.

A 4×4 vehicle with a team of 2 would supply the cover and reported to Falkirk Community Hospital at 18:00 each evening. This cover was subsequently extended to Friday 10th December.

Friday 3rd December

Over the 6 hours they travelled 118 miles allowing specialised nursing care to be taken to some of the areas most vulnerable people. As before most of the work was of a pre arranged nature but 2 of the 11 visits were emergency out of hours calls.

Saturday 4th December

The same routine as on other nights followed. A total of 103 miles was covered in temperatures as low as minus 13. The first large areas of freezing fog also presented themselves.

Sunday 5th December

The health board had decided that instead of keeping 2 nursing teams, one in Falkirk and the other in Stirling with our vehicle spending time with each, they would reduce the staff to a single team and we would simply transport them as required. Calls would be reduced to emergency and urgent only. As many of these calls covered items such as pain relief in palliative care, for us the workload remained much the same.

Once on the road the team would cover 129 miles with temperatures now reaching minus 15. The freezing fog continued as did a slight increase in the calls to us via the NHS24 helpline.

Monday 6th December

The day started with taking the vehicle to the garage for some TLC. Well that was the plan, as whilst on route possibly the heaviest snow fall so far struck. Before getting to the garage assistance had to be given to many who simply could not move with the snow now on top of ice. A 2 mile journey taking 90 minutes. Whilst in for running repairs, a call was received from the Red Cross for any help available.

It was agreed that IRC would start to help with Day Nurse cover as well. A planning visit to the Red Cross control took place and then out with the nurses.

Nurses were taken to many locations within the Falkirk District and then a new and very important request – could we collect blood samples and deliver them to hospital labs to allow medication to be prescribed? This was a side of care we had not even considered but felt was very worthwhile. Various locations were visited with the samples being delivered to labs in both Falkirk and Stirling.
The team then continued with night nurse cover. The complete shift lasted for 18 hours and a distance of 164 miles was covered. Temperatures as low as minus 15 again produced ice and freezing fog. Many motorways were blocked with hundreds of vehicles being stranded. Drivers would have to spend the night in many of them.

Tuesday 7th December

Having just finished a long cover period a call was received from the Red Cross at 03:37 asking if we had 150 blankets which could be distributed to those motorists stranded on motorways. They were informed that we did not stock blankets but would be happy to distribute supplies if they were available from other sources. No further action was required.

A call was received from Forth Valley Health Board asking if we could get nurses to some remote locations outside town. These locations are best described as semi rural and patients would not receive help if we were unavailable.

Over 24 inches (61cm) of fresh snow fell at points. This fresh snow was lying on old snow, so at times the conditions were challenging. Once again IRC was also requested to deliver blood samples.

The evening night nurse service then became the work load and as on the previous evening the nurse team had been reduced to a single hospital. Once on the road they would not return to their base hospital for 7 hours.

Routine calls for pain relief form a huge part of this service and its importance to patients and family cannot be overly stressed. NHS24 helpline calls were also covered with a total of 123 miles being covered. Temperatures as low as minus 16 were encountered with freezing fog and ice producing poor driving conditions.

Wednesday 8th December

As the team left Falkirk Hospital to carry out a few routine visits they received a call from NHS 24 to attend a home in Alloa. This would be the teams longest individual visit. The patient required the attendance of a doctor and specialist advise from a second doctor based at the local hospice.

A few minutes after this call and as they were returning to Falkirk, a call to Bridge of Allan was received. The first routine call, normally over by 19:00 was not reached until around 23:15.

This was to be one of those evenings when on the way back to base, 2 police officers and a recovery driver were seen struggling to move a car out of a dip. Assistance was given to tow the vehicle onto the road. A total of 136 miles was covered.

Thursday 9th December

This was to be the first shift when no NHS24 helpline calls would be received. A very quiet shift covering routine visits only. 61 miles were covered.

Friday 10th December

The team was aware that International Rescue Corps had been told to stand down after this working shift. They were also aware that the previous evening had been the quietest so far and as some nurses started to return to their own transport felt that this may turn into a very long and possibly frustrating final evening. This was not to be the case.

Palliative care for these nurses is treated as a priority and 4 out of the 5 visits were this reason. For some, unfortunately as the snow melted away so were the final days of life.

The visits were generally longer than normal, back up from doctors was often requested and ongoing visits through out the night became the normal.

A total of 44 miles was covered. As our final shift ended we felt very humble to have been part of this care team which helped not only the patients but also the families of those during the later part of life.

Over this period of cover, the longest shift covered was 19 hours and the shortest 6 hours with the normal being approximately 10 hours. On all occasions they came home feeling good, that once again IRC had fulfilled its stated objectives.

Note no details of medical information or location can be included due to the vulnerable nature of many of those visited.

Willie McMartin
Team Leader

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