Students aren’t known for their concerns with personal health and safety. Combine copious amounts of alcohol with immature / reckless behaviour and you’ve got more accidents waiting to happen than the current US presidential administration. The only problem with being part of the student population in St Andrews, however, is if things go badly wrong for you then your nearest A&E is in Dundee.
So why don’t we have an A&E in St Andrews? This is a nice easy question to answer: the NHS is underfunded, understaffed, and overworked. Just Google “NHS mess” and you’ll find pages and pages of articles to leaf through. Even if NHS Scotland wanted to open an A&E in St Andrews, it wouldn’t have the staff or budget to do it. The NHS are currently more concerned with closing hospitals and A&E departments down, not opening new ones.
Now, we do have a Minor Injuries Unit, but this can only do so much. Monday – Friday, 8 am – 6 pm, you can walk in for treatment for broken bones, sprains and strains, cuts, burns, and other minor injuries. For more serious injuries, stomach and chest pain or breathing problems however, they will send you to Ninewells. Outside of these hours, you also need to call NHS24. From personal experience, this can be a real headache. Through NHS24 you run the risk of gaining an appointment anywhere in Fife. It’s a lottery that could land you with a hefty taxi fare or a long and complicated bus journey… and chances are they might send you to A&E afterwards anyway. That’s a lot of time and money wasted, for both you and the NHS.
But Ninewells is only half an hour away right? That’s not too bad. If you’ve got a car, or a friend with car in case you can’t drive, then it’s easy enough to get to. Alternatively, you can take a bus to Dundee and then a bus to Ninewells, or fork out for a taxi which, from what I can remember of a past Saturday night, is around about £40.
But what if it’s the middle of the night? Or you can’t get hold of a taxi quick enough? Or the weather is so bad that the Tay Bridge is closed?
Well, this is where the problems start to arise. If things are so bad that you need an ambulance, then obviously call an ambulance, or 111 if things aren’t so serious but you need advice on what to do next or help getting to hospital. But the ambulance service isn’t a taxi service, as much as it might seem that way in the early hours of the morning to the mind of a drunken injured student who can’t really afford £80 for a return taxi journey. And how much does this cost and already financially troubled NHS Scotland? And if the Tay Bridge is closed? Consider yourself trying to get even further to the A&E at Kirkcaldy.
Now many people might argue that we should just be “more responsible,” that things like Raisin Weekend should be stopped, and then there wouldn’t be so many issues. This is a fair point, there’s no denying it, and we should all have more concern for what we drink and how much. But alcohol isn’t the only culprit for student accidents. There is a whole host of sports clubs, with sports like rugby and hockey in particular fairly renowned for providing some serious injuries. And with many students learning to cook for the first time you can guarantee burns, scalds, and cuts a plenty.
So with this in mind, and no chance of an A&E appearing in St Andrews anytime soon, maybe you should start seriously thinking about what you’d do if you, or someone else, was involved in an accident – and maybe how you can reduce the likelihood of that even happening.