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Call from 999 staff; Health crew reform fear.

Byline: By MARIE LEVY

AMBULANCE staff on Teesside are calling for Emergency Care Support Worker roles to be scrapped.

They claim people taking on the role are inadequately trained and should not be working on frontline ambulances.

North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) has been gradually introducing the role since last year as part of a national pilot.

Previously ambulances were crewed by two people who were qualified as technicians or the higher grade of paramedics.

The idea behind the new scheme is that eventually every ambulance will be crewed by a paramedic and an Emergency Care Support Worker.

Emergency Care Support Workers are being introduced gradually across Teesside and sometimes two of these support workers will be used to crew urgent (non-emergency) calls.

But one Teesside NEAS employee says this is putting patients at risk.

The ambulance worker, who asked not to be named, said: "They get these people thousands of pounds cheaper than a technician.

"They do only basic first aid and they can't give drugs but of course the public see their green uniform and think they are fully trained. It's unfair.

"If you think about it, the urgent cases are seen by a doctor who deems it necessary for the patient to go to hospital.

"What if the patient becomes worse, has breathing difficulties or goes into cardiac arrest? They then have to get in touch with control to send another crew or a car with a paramedic in.

"What's the point of having a car and an ambulance? The only reason they are putting cars on is targets."

A spokesman for NEAS said: "We are not replacing technicians, but we are moving towards having many more paramedics.

"From now on we are training advanced technicians to become paramedics and introducing the new role of emergency care support workers with the support of our local Unison branch.

"The emergency care support worker will drive the ambulance and the paramedic will look after the patient. It's about having the most appropriate response."
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Aug 28, 2008
Words:334
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