Medics with 14 weeks’ training sent alone to life-threatening emergencies in Northamptonshire, report reveals

EMAS ambulance station
EMAS ambulance station

Ambulance medics who should be supported by a paramedic had no back-up for life-threatening emergencies 868 times in 12 months, according to figures for Northamptonshire.

The figures, based on the number of 999 calls where only an Emergency Care Assistant (ECA) or Emergency Medical Technician (Tech) was sent, cover the period April 2014 to May 2015.

Even though they are supposed to be a fast response backed up by a paramedic, the ECAs and Techs - who have a maximum of 14 weeks’ initial training - dealt with ‘Red 2’ calls (such as serious breathing difficulties or strokes) by themselves 843 times.

They dealt with Red 1 calls (such as life-threatening injuries or cardiac arrest) without back-up a further 25 times.

East Midlands Ambulance Service said the large number of instances meant it was unable to find out why the ECA’s and Techs were sent alone on each occasion.

It offered explanations such as that the emergencies were not so serious once the medic assessed the patient.

However it also said that, sometimes, no paramedics are available to be dispatched so the medic would take the patient onwards to hospital themselves.

Blanche Lentz, EMAS’s general manager for Northamptonshire, said: “Calls are categorised based on how serious and life threatening they are and the most appropriate resource is sent.

“We are recruiting paramedics, technicians and emergency care assistants to increase our ability to respond to growing demand. Each role has a different scope of practice which indicates the level of clinical care they are able to provide, and therefore determines which calls they can attend.”

A spokeswoman also pointed out that, in the time period above, no paramedic was sent on relatively few occasions compared to the number of call-outs. The figures equate to 1.08 per cent of Red 1 emergencies in Northamptonshire, and 2.54 per cent of Red 2 emergencies.