A PARAMEDIC has admitted going on a personal shopping trip instead of attending to an urgent call for a suicidally depressed patient.
Victoria Arnott was tasked with taking a patient to a pyschiatric hospital in Kirkcaldy, Fife on 4 July last year, but instead diverted the ambulance.
A Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) hearing in Edinburgh today (WED) was told she stopped at a shop to pick up a part for her personal computer.
Ms Arnott admitted a charge of ” delay[ing] attending the call in order to undertake some personal shopping” and that she did not “notify and/or seek authorisation from the Ambulance Control Centre for [her] actions.”
She denied a further charge of misusing an ambulance for personal purposes.
Rowena Rix, case presenter for the HCPC, said Ms Arnott “was allocated an urgent call, a female patient who was reported depressed and suicidal in order to transport her to hospital.”
A colleague reported a delay in answering the call to her shift manager Ian Morgan, who carried out a preliminary investigation into the matter, Ms Rix said.
Ms Rix said: “Further to the preliminary investigation Ms Arnott admitted she had stopped the ambulance en route in order to undertake some personal shopping.”
This was corroborated by the other crew member of the ambulance, Thomas Younger, but there were “inconsistencies” in what was bought, Ms Rix said.
Ms Rix said that following the investigation Ms Arnott was given an 18-month final written warning by the Scottish Ambulance Service.
Giving evidence at the hearing , Mr Morgan said equipment on the ambulance recorded that it had gone into an industrial park in Kirkcaldy, and had stopped for seven minutes.
He told the hearing: “I spoke to Victoria and she informed me she was due to pick up something to do with her computer – PC.”
He said a doctor had called for the patient to be taken to hospital.
Ms Rix asked him: “In your experience is it acceptable to stop en route to one of those calls?” to which he replied “No it’s not.”
Alice Stobart, counsel for Ms Arnott, said paramedics at the station would be allocated jobs near to where they needed to carry out personal chores.
In November last year a whistleblower claimed an ambulance driver visited Currys PC world in Dunfermline, at a retail park three miles from the ambulance station.
The whistleblower said at the time: “It’s crazy. As soon as you hit ‘mobile’ on the screen and leave the station, you go to that address. You don’t go via shops.
“They stopped at PC World in Dunfermline on the way to a doctor’s urgent call.”
The whistleblower continued: “Half the doctors’ calls are a waste of time but some are spot-on and that person needs to go to hospital immediately.
“You never do it, you never divert – you’ve no idea what you are going to.
“It’s not fair the patient is getting a delay to treatment and transport because someone is going shopping.”
Speaking outside today’s hearing, Ms Arnott’s husband David McCartney denied she had been picking up a computer part, saying it was common for paramedics to be assigned jobs close to where they needed to carry out personal errands.
The hearing continues.