The College of Paramedics is urging considerable caution over contents of yesterday’s report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Homeland Security, which recommends that Ambulance Services are merged with Fire & Rescue Services.
Just days after the Home Secretary, Theresa May, was quoted in the Sunday Times as suggesting that such a merger should go ahead, the College of Paramedics council charged its chair and chief executive to meet with her, to explain its grave concerns.
Director of Communications, David Davis, explained:
“Bringing together the emergency services seems sensible on the face of it – we all have blue lights and respond to emergencies – but we fear the Home Secretary and the parliamentary group have misunderstood what paramedics do, most of the time.”
He continued: “We don’t just attend road accidents, house fires and other such major incidents: most paramedic work goes on without drama, in peoples’ homes, over the phone and in the community. The vast majority of our work is looking after the elderly, those with long-term conditions and illness. We’re key members of the wider NHS, and decisions about altering our service need to be clinically-led. It’s a fallacy simply to put us in the same category as fire and rescue.”
The latest development comes only weeks after the Home Secretary described paramedics and other highly educated and competent pre-hospital clinicians as ‘ambulance drivers’.
Dave Hodge, Chief Executive of the College of Paramedics said:
“You can understand why paramedics are worried about these proposals, particularly when it’s apparent that the government’s top team doesn’t seem to understand the difference between a highly educated and competent profession and ‘ambulance drivers’.”
He pointed out that the introduction of specialist paramedics in primary care, critical care and telephone triage, as well as consultant paramedics to oversee the governance and clinical practice, is a key component in ensuring that patients get the care that they need when they need it.
“We do not dismiss the proposals out of hand, but we strongly recommend early talks to ensure that the proposals do not have adverse consequences. Patient care must not play ‘second fiddle’ to any of the other services.”
David Davis added:
“We welcome the recognition of paramedics and ambulance services as genuine emergency services by the report’s authors and the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Rt Hon Francis Maude MP. This is something the college has campaigned about for some time in relation to pension issues.
“We also welcome any review of services that will improve what we do but changes must be judged by clinical needs, not just lumping services together for apparent efficiencies. If they get it wrong, lives could be at risk.”