The Scottish Ambulance Service sent a full business case for that project to the department a few days ago. The department is considering the case carefully but urgently. Subject to the department's approval, the service expects to be able to complete implementation of the project in 2004-05.
As the minister will be aware, many members are concerned that the reduction in the number of ambulance centres will have a negative impact on the service and on projected reaction times. Will he answer those concerns and say whether he is content that the reduction in the
The situation is the opposite of what Margaret Smith suggested. The reality is that the Scottish Ambulance Service has done an important piece of work, which the Executive asked it to do. We will look urgently at that work. However, the plan cannot be implemented unless there is investment in three operation rooms. Unless that happens, it will not be possible to move to the priority dispatch system. Those two things must be done simultaneously. I hope to be able to give a response to the report in the near future.
Will the minister tell members whether the Aberdeen ambulance control room will play a role in delivering the new system? If not, does that mean he is proceeding with closure against the wishes of 22,000 local people who signed a petition to keep the Aberdeen centre open?
There will be room for smaller local centres, but the reality is that the new priority dispatch system depends on having three operation rooms and on major investment being put into them. I understand that that plan has given rise to concerns, but when people understand the reason for that investment in the new operation rooms, they will support the plan. It is clear that people want to move to the priority dispatch system, but that cannot happen without the investment in three operation rooms.
The issue of paramedics is fundamental, too. We cannot move to the priority dispatch system unless we invest in extra paramedics. That is part of the Scottish Ambulance Service's business case. I want to look at the detailed issues over the next few weeks. There must and will be more investment in paramedics. By building up that service, we can have the kind of emergency services throughout Scotland that we want.
The minister will be aware that last year an ambulance travelled from Glasgow to Dumfries via Edinburgh and Hawick. Will he ensure that, when the proposals are implemented and the new centres are established, there will be proper geographical computer data to allow the dispatch to take into account complicated rural geographies?
One issue that we must consider is how the plan will work in remote and