Nicky Marr: Heroes all at the Highland Heroes Awards in Inverness last week, and some need our help now
Easier access to your trusted, local news. Subscribe to a digital package and support local news publishing.
Unless you’ve been on a digital detox, you’ll be aware that the much-loved Highland Heroes Awards finally returned to Inverness last week after an absence of two years.
Much has happened in the interim, and many of the stories that I was privileged to share from the stage of the Kingsmills Hotel last Thursday evening, were about how challenges brought out the best in people from right across the Highlands.
People from Strathspey to Thrumster and Ardnamurchan to Alness, had taken time and effort to support their neighbours, friends, families, and strangers in their communities, especially during these unimaginably strange times.
While we were celebrating, dancing, and dining in candlelight, decent people across our communities were still looking in on each other, are still fundraising for charities, volunteering, caring, and doing the right thing, not for glory, but simply because it’s the right thing to do.
And when we hold these awards next year, I’m certain that those who are fundraising and collecting supplies for families impacted by the devastating war in Ukraine, or getting ready to open their homes to refugees, will be among those who will be given their place in the spotlight, even if just for one, glittering night.
One of the categories last Thursday was Emergency Services or Armed Forces Hero of the Year, and that was won, on the public vote of over 15,000 Highlanders, by PICT, the Pre-hospital Immediate Care and Trauma Team.
But I confess; until PICT hit the news this January, when the Highland-wide service they provide became under threat, I can’t say I had ever heard of them.
I’ll assume you’re more clued up than I was, but just in case, here’s the background.
The PICT team are trained to deliver advanced medical and surgical interventions to patients at home or at the roadside. They support the essential, prized work of our paramedic and ambulance crews. Their work over the years has saved lives, eased considerable patient pain and distress, and allowed countless people to stay at home, rather than have to be transported to Raigmore for specialist care and treatment. PICT currently operate seven days a week, 11am to 11pm.
In January a move was made to cut their “opening hours” from 84 to just 44 per week, a move PICT members themselves vociferously campaigned against.
Their cause was backed by MSP Edward Mountain, and a six-month reprieve was granted in March.
But what will happen in autumn? Why shouldn’t our rural population be as well served as our neighbours elsewhere?
Surely the relative costs of this team are lower than the costs of hospital care? And what price can be put on interventions where lives are saved?
We solicited a public promise from MP Drew Hendry last Thursday that he’ll do everything he can to support the continued funding of PICT.
I know, health is a devolved issue, but Drew has friends in high places. I hope he and Edward can work together on this to save this heroic service from being diminished.