‘Non-clinicians to 999 calls’ plan sparks row

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A row has broken out between ambulance bosses and unions over vehicles with no paramedics on board being sent to 999 calls.

Ambulances staffed only by lesser-qualified Emergency Care Assistants (ECAs) will now be responding to incidents in Yorkshire – including the most serious emergencies.

Unions have slammed the move, calling it “deeply concerning”, while ambulance workers said they would not want their relatives being attended by one of the non-paramedic teams.

One staff member, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “I would not want to stand there and watch as the unqualified, untrained, inadequate ambulance response did nothing but watch with me as my relative worsened and possibly died.”

Emergency Care Assistants undergo around six weeks training and can carry out first aid, basic life support and use a defibrillator, but cannot administer drugs.

They are usually paired with a paramedic but earlier this week, workers at Yorkshire Ambulance Service were told that the ECA role would be changing, including transporting some patients and acting as a first responder to “red calls”, the most serious.

Unison, which represents most Yorkshire Ambulance Service staff, said it was “deeply concerned over the enforced changes”.

A spokesman said: “The emergency care assistant role is one of providing support to the clinician – it is not a clinical role.”

But ambulance bosses insist ECAs would only be sent to the most serious calls very rarely and a paramedic would also be sent.

David Whiting, chief executive at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: “ECAs are operating well within their capability following their training and this development is also consistent with how other ambulance services operate across the country.”

He said they would be used to transport patients who did not require treatment and act as first responder on scene with a defibrillator, like volunteer community first responders.