Sandpiper Trust in rural areas of Scotland

From The Sunday Times
October 11, 2009

Mission to improve remote chances of survival

A nephew’s death led Claire Maitland to help provide emergency care in isolated areas

Gillian Harris

Claire Maitland came up with the idea for the Sandpiper Trust while mourning her 14-year-old nephew, Sandy, who drowned on holiday in Canada.During the difficult months that followed his death, Maitland thought about the remoteness of the lake where he had been swimming and the length of time it took the emergency services to arrive at the scene.

She turned her attention to the situation in Scotland, where emergency medical help is not immediately available in some rural communities. What would happen if a child got into difficulties swimming in a remote loch? It was the start of an ambitious plan to improve a fractured system.

“I had this urge to try to make things better after Sandy’s death,” she says. “I started to make phone calls to doctors and patients’ groups. I asked, ‘if there is an accident in rural Scotland, what happens?’”

She soon discovered that there was no co-ordinated system of pre-hospital care for patients in remote parts of the country. If someone was injured in a road accident, for example, an ambulance would be called, even though it could take hours to reach the scene. In some cases, the delay could prove fatal.

The former veterinary nurse decided to plug an unquantifiable gap. She began to raise money to provide rural GPs with medical equipment that would deliver life-saving care to patients before they were attended by paramedics.

From the kitchen table of her home near Crathes in Kincardineshire, she formed the Sandpiper Trust to buy bags containing emergency equipment.

GPs across rural Scotland now have 750 Sandpiper bags, worth £1,000 each.

The charity also bought 50 vehicle locator systems that can be used by the Scottish Ambulance Service to determine if there is a Sandpiper GP near the scene of an emergency who could respond faster than paramedics.

Read more about emergency care in remote areas