'Cut-price ambulance staff with only a few weeks’ training are being sent on thousands of 999 calls, a investigation reveals.
Seven out of the ten ambulance services say they routinely dispatch crews of two care assistants to incidents without a qualified paramedic.
Figures obtained from four organisations show they went out to 47,000 incidents last year including heart attacks, strokes and cardiac arrests. The total figure is likely to be much higher as three organisations did not provide statistics.
The ambulance service is desperately overstretched and just yesterday, a son revealed how he had travelled for four hours to reach his injured mother and still beat paramedics. Mark Clements, 48, caught a bus, two Tube services and two trains to race 180 miles from London to Exmouth in Devon on Saturday. An ambulance turned up an hour later meaning 77-year-old Margaret, who had broken her hip, endured an agonising wait of seven hours.
Care assistants – also known as emergency care assistants (ECAs) – are normally paired up with paramedics to support them while they provide care. But increasingly they are being sent out in pairs or on their own as ambulance services struggle to respond to a rise in calls.
NHS bosses said it was more important for critically-ill patients to be treated as quickly as possible, and not necessarily by a paramedic. Some ambulance trusts insisted that when ECAs were dispatched to life-threatening incidents, paramedics would always be sent on later once they had finished with other patients. Three trusts – London, the West Midlands and Yorkshire – said they never sent ECAs out on their own.'
Read more: Peril of the cut-price paramedics: Care assistants with just a few weeks of training are being sent on 999 calls
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