Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rise in 999 Calls Staffed Only by Non-Paramedics

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rise in 999 Calls Staffed Only by Non-Paramedics

Article excerpt

Byline: Craig Thompson and Claire Miller Health Reporter craig.thompson01

ALARMING new figures today reveal that 1,971 emergency call-outs by the North East Ambulance Service were attended by non-paramedics.

The statistics show a seven-fold increase between 2013/14 and 2014/15 where Emergency Care Assistants - and not qualified paramedics - were used for serious blue light call-outs.

Usually Emergency Care Assistants will work as part of a team with a qualified paramedic, or sometimes as a first responder, and assist with moving and monitoring patients, driving and helping paramedics. An ECA takes a six to nine week in-service training course in which they learn moving and handling techniques, first aid, basic patient skills and safe driving techniques.

Trevor Johnston, Unison North East head of health, said he was aware of the staffing problems currently facing the North East Ambulance Service.

He added: "The Trust is around 100 paramedics short, and recruiting them is difficult because there is a mass shortage of trained people. We are working with them in a bid to help alleviate this issue."

During the past year, North Tyneside had the highest proportion of ECA-only calls, at 270, up from 33 in 2013/14.

In Sunderland, the number of ECA-only calls was 23 times higher in a year, up from 17 in 2013/14 to 397 in 2014/15, while in the North and East of Newcastle North figures shot up from 22 to 170.

In Northumberland ECA-only calls jumped from 27 to 125, while in South Tyneside they leapt from 11 to 81.

While these incidents make up only a small proportion of Category A responses by the NEAS, union bosses say it does reflect a wider problem.

Mr Johnston added: "The fact is there are a lot of good and capable ECAs out there, and these figures are not a criticism of them. …

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