Increased ambulance cover for Caithness
Plans to increase ambulance provision in Caithness have been announced by the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) and NHS Highland.
They said the investment followed a review showing a rise in transfers between Caithness General in Wick and Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.
The Unite union has been raising concerns about the increase in these transfers and others in the north.
Earlier this month, its members voted to start an official dispute with SAS.
SAS and NHS Highland said full details of the investment, including how much funding it involved, would be announced at a later date.
Pauline Howie, SAS chief executive, said: "We are delighted to have agreed significant investment with NHS Highland to increase our resources in Caithness and help ensure patients receive access to the highest possible levels of care.
"This funding complements wider investment across the north of Scotland in response to changing patient needs and access to more specialist health service delivery.
"Working with our staff, community partners and NHS Highland, we identified the need for additional ambulance resources in Caithness, in particular to respond to the growing number of patients whose health care needs mean they require to be transported to Raigmore."
She added: "We will announce the full detail of the resources following further work with local staff and partners and would like to thank NHS Highland for their support in reaching this agreement."
Milne Weir, general manager for SAS's North Division, said staff in the division were "busier than ever and providing excellent care to patients across Caithness".
He said: "This investment is very welcome and we will continue to work with our staff, their representatives and NHS Highland to develop our service in Caithness both in the short term and as we put additional staff in place.
"We will be advertising for new and qualified ambulance staff in the following weeks, with the additional staff going through a period of training following the recruitment process."
Elaine Mead, chief executive for NHS Highland, said: "The additional investment will mean local people can access specialist care in Raigmore in a timely manner while ensuring there is appropriate ambulance cover in Caithness.
"It is really important that we make the best use of this resource and I welcome input of staff and local stakeholders to support this going forward."