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Competence of UK paramedics in performing standard paramedic skills

02 October 2023
Volume 15 · Issue 10


Paramedics working in a traditional ambulance service role infrequently see patients who are critically ill or injured; in addition, pressures on hospitals have caused long waiting times, further lowering exposure to all patient groups and reducing how often paramedics use their clinical skills, potentially negatively impacting performance in practice. This study sought to establish the competence of paramedics in a set of skills that included frequent and infrequent as well as simple and complex procedures. They took part in a scored clinical scenario in which they used these skills. The study also sought to explore paramedics' perception of how difficult these skills were. Participants generally scored well; however, in some instances, elements of skills were missed or performed out of sequence. The pressure created by the scenario appeared to negatively impact performance.

Paramedics in the UK working in traditional land ambulance roles do not frequently attend critically ill or injured patients (Henderson et al, 2019).

Following the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, extended waiting times outside hospitals have occurred at emergency departments across the UK (Royal College of Emergency Medicine, 2022), which have caused knock-on delays for ambulance services (British Medical Association, 2022).

This has created a situation where ambulance crews are often waiting for hours to hand patients over, reducing the number of incidents attended during a shift and therefore reducing exposure to a variety of clinical situations and, potentially, the number of clinical skills they are using.

In addition, student paramedics and newly qualified paramedics need to gain exposure to a wide variety of patients; this can enable them to meet the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) (2023) standards of proficiency as well as individual ambulance trust requirements. Regular exposure to skills in the context where they are normally used is needed to maintain performance (Godden and Baddeley, 1975; Ericsson, 2008; Pusic et al, 2012).

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