Mountain rescue could be given its own emergency telephone number if the recommendation of two experts is accepted.
Bob Sharp and Archie Roy, who between them have 60 years’ experience in the rescue community, made the suggestion in a report commissioned by the Lake District’s volunteer teams.
At present, anyone needing mountain rescue services has to ring 999 or 112 and request help via the police.
But the pair, in their Rescue 2020 document, said the Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association, the umbrella body for Cumbria’s 12 teams, should explore the practicalities, limitations and benefits of implementing a dedicated mountain rescue emergency phone number.
The point was one of nine areas where the authors said mountain rescue in the Lake District and surrounding fells could be improved.
“Every team has a callout procedure designed to alert all members in the shortest possible time,” they said. “Reports of slow response speed, decline in attendance and undue pressure on a few team members and increased selectivity by members in attending incidents, suggest there is room for improvement.
“We recommend teams examine their current call-out procedures with a view to identifying scope for improvement.”
The hard-hitting report also says mountain rescue teams in the area do not work as well as they might with other emergency services.
It says: “The repeated delays and inappropriate tasking of ambulance assets that have taken place for several years, and the resulting tensions that clearly exist, especially between the ambulance and mountain rescue services, have to be eliminated
The report authors recommend the association’s training subcommittee identifies areas of work where there might be greater collaboration. It should examine the potential to develop joint training opportunities and individual teams should see if there is scope to develop existing collaborations with neighbouring teams.
The association commissioned the report 18 months ago and its recommendations cover nine areas for improvement. Rescue 2020 follows a similar exercise 20 years ago that helped shape mountain rescue practices.
Sharp and Roy also tackled the thorny issue of how the 12 teams are funded. They said: “LDSAMRA presently provides financial aid to teams on an ‘equal’ basis.
“There is a firm view this policy should continue but there is a stronger overall feeling that it should change.
“We recommend that LDSAMRA embarks on a review of this policy to see if there is a more acceptable method for distributing funds.”
They also suggest central purchasing of gear and other items could save money, and that the association should look at national funding to help teams.
Teams should also make greater use of counselling and mentoring for their members, the report says.
“We recommend that teams examine the methods they use for mentoring new members in terms of their effectiveness and transparency. They should also clarify the procedures they have in place for counselling and ensure all team members are fully informed about those procedures.”
In what is bound to be a controversial statement, the report authors say there are some concerns about the adequacy of individual skill levels and the overall level of enthusiasm and commitment of some members.
They also say there is a lack of willingness for teams to be self-critical following training and operations.
The association’s chairman Richard Warren said: “Bob and Archie are both well qualified to undertake the research and to create such a review with a combined experience in Scottish mountain rescue of over 60 years and backgrounds in research and writing.
“The aim of Rescue 2020 was to carry out a comprehensive review of mountain rescue provision in the Lake District and to identify existing good practices, as well as issues for further development.”
He added: “There are some challenges to address, but also a lot of strengths to build on.
“The Lake District’s teams will be working on these recommendations over the coming months, in consultation with our various partner organisations in the emergency services and elsewhere.
“We all want to ensure that the casualties’ best interests are met and we’ll work together to make sure that this continues to happen.”