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Ambulance Person

Ambulance staff provide emergency and non-emergency care for ill and vulnerable patients, and transport them to and from their homes, hospitals and other medical facilities.

There are four main types of ambulance crew:

  • Paramedics are the most highly trained ambulance staff. (The Paramedic profile has details.)
  • Emergency care assistants (ECAs) help paramedics or ambulance technicians to give patients the urgent care they need.
  • Ambulance care assistants (ACAs) carry out non-emergency journeys.
  • Ambulance technicians, like ECAs, respond to emergency calls. (While ambulance service trusts still employ ambulance technicians, it is no longer possible to enter this role as a new recruit.)

NHS ambulance service staff work a 37.5-hour week. ECAs work shifts, including nights, weekends and public holidays. ACAs can work Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm, or shifts.

Salaries range from between £13,233 and £18,157 a year in the NHS.

An ambulance person should be:

  • responsible and caring
  • quick thinking and decisive
  • cool under pressure
  • excellent communicators
  • patient and reassuring
  • confident drivers
  • interested in healthcare and helping people.

Most ambulance staff are employed by the 12 local NHS ambulance trusts in England. A few work for private ambulance services and the armed forces.

Entry requirements vary between trusts. They tend to be similar for both ECAs and ACAs. Some trusts ask for at least three or four GCSEs (A*-C), or equivalent qualifications. The Diploma in society, health and development may be relevant. Applicants typically need a full manual driving licence and at least a year's driving experience. They would usually undergo a medical examination, selection tests and a check through the Criminal Records Bureau.

ECAs have a six- to nine-week training course. ACAs and PTS drivers undertake a training course lasting between two and three weeks. Training includes assessment and written exams. Successful candidates are then attached to an ambulance station, working under supervision for a probationary period.

ACAs and PTS drivers can undertake further training to become an ECA. Experienced ambulance people can apply to train as a paramedic. They may also move into other operational ambulance service roles.

What is the work like?

Ambulance staff provide emergency and non-emergency care for ill and vulnerable patients. This includes transporting patients to and from their homes, hospitals and other medical facilities.

There are four main types of ambulance crew:

  • Paramedics are the most highly trained ambulance staff. (See the Paramedic profile for further details.)
  • Emergency care assistants (ECAs) help paramedics or ambulance technicians to give patients the urgent care they need, while ensuring they get to hospital quickly and safely. They also handle routine transfers if the patient has more complex needs.
  • Ambulance care assistants (ACAs) carry out non-emergency journeys. These make up around 90 per cent of ambulance trips. They drive disabled, vulnerable or older people to and from outpatient clinics, day care centres and routine hospital admissions. This is sometimes known as the Patient Transport Service (PTS).
  • Ambulance technicians, like ECAs, respond to emergency calls and help paramedics to give patients urgent care. They also handle routine transfers if the patient has more complex needs.

Although ambulance service trusts still employ ambulance technicians, it is no longer possible to enter this role as a new recruit and it will eventually be phased out.

ECAs must be able to respond to emergencies. For example, they are trained to:

  • carry out basic diagnostic procedures under the supervision of a paramedic
  • support the delivery of first aid and minor emergency treatments
  • monitor and treat patients until another health professional takes over.

ACAs are mainly concerned with lifting, moving and transporting their patients in safety and comfort. They are, however, trained to resuscitate any patient who is taken ill while in their care.

In addition, ECAs and ACAs are both expected to:

  • drive the ambulance
  • ensure the vehicle is in good order and stocked with appropriate equipment
  • keep accurate records
  • respond to patients' needs and keep them reassured.

ECAs are usually based in ambulance vehicles, which are well equipped with technology and drugs to support patients. They may also work on air ambulances or motorcycles. ACAs drive specially designed vehicles, which usually have a tail lift for wheelchairs. They may also use cars for transporting able-bodied people.

An ambulance person is generally paired with another colleague as well as working as part of a crew. ECAs are paired with paramedics, while ACAs work together. Both ECAs and ACAs also work closely with other healthcare staff, such as doctors, other ambulance service staff and the fire and police services.

Hours and environment

Ambulance staff in the NHS (National Health Service) have a basic 37.5-hour working week. ECAs work shifts, including nights, weekends and public holidays. Many ACAs work Monday to Friday, between 9am and 5pm, while some work shifts. Hours of work and shift patterns vary between different ambulance services. Part-time and flexible working hours are common.

Ambulance staff spend much of the time in their vehicles. ECAs may be called to any location and are expected to work in some demanding situations, such as in the aftermath of road accidents or violent crimes. They also spend part of their time in hospitals, clinics, care homes and patients' homes. The job involves lifting and moving patients.

All ambulance staff wear uniforms and protective clothing.

Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.

  • ACAs, ECAs and PTS drivers can earn between £13,233 and £16,333 a year at the start of their career.
  • With experience, salaries for higher-level care assistants and drivers can start at £15,190 a year.
  • Ambulance people can potentially earn up to £18,157 a year.

Staff working shifts and unsocial hours may receive considerably more. Salaries are higher for those working in and around London.

Skills and personal qualities

An ambulance person should be:

  • responsible and caring
  • quick thinking and decisive
  • able to stay calm under pressure
  • good communicators
  • comfortable communicating by radio and telephone
  • patient and reassuring
  • able to get on well with people of all ages and from a wide variety of backgrounds
  • able to respect patient confidentiality
  • fit enough to cope with the physical demands of the job
  • confident driving in emergency conditions
  • able to work well as part of a team.

Interests

It is important to:

  • enjoy helping people
  • have a strong interest in healthcare.

Getting in

Most ambulance staff are employed by the 12 local NHS ambulance trusts in England. A few ambulance service staff work for private ambulance services and in the armed forces. The NHS employs around 38,000 ambulance staff in the UK. Competition for posts can be keen.

NHS ambulance jobs are advertised on the NHS jobs vacancy website, on the websites of the ambulance trusts and in local newspapers.

Entry routes

Entry requirements vary between ambulance trusts. They tend to be similar for both ECAs and ACAs. Some trusts do not require set qualifications, while others may ask for at least three or four GCSEs (A*-C) or equivalent qualifications. The Diploma in society, health and development may be relevant for this area of work.

In general, ACAs, ECAs and PTS drivers will need:

  • excellent driving skills with between one and two years' driving experience
  • to pass a medical examination
  • to pass service selection tests, which may include a driving assessment, fitness test and writing and number skills tests
  • to undergo checks through the Criminal Records Bureau in order to work with children and vulnerable adults
  • a full manual driving licence. Entrants who passed their test after summer 1996 may need an extra driving qualification to drive larger vehicles and carry passengers. Some ambulance services support staff to gain the required standard of licence.

Trusts may expect previous relevant experience, such as working with people in a customer service or caring role. It can also be useful to have voluntary experience in healthcare.

Training

ECAs have a six- to nine-week training course. ACAs and PTS drivers undertake a training course lasting between two and three weeks. During training, all ambulance people will learn:

  • moving and handling techniques
  • first aid
  • basic patient skills
  • safe driving techniques and specialist driving skills.

Training includes assessment and written exams. Successful ambulance people are then attached to an ambulance station where they work under the guidance of a trained supervisor for a probationary period.

Once qualified, all ambulance service staff will continue to receive regular patient handling and health and safety training.

Getting on

ACAs and PTS drivers can undertake further training to become an ECA.

With experience and further training, they can apply for student paramedic positions with an ambulance service trust or attend an approved full-time course in paramedic science at a university.

Ambulance workers may also move into other departments within the ambulance service including the control room or operational management. With experience, they may also move into non-operational roles, such as training or health and safety.

Further information

Ambulance Service Network, c/o The NHS Confederation, 29 Bressenden Place, London SW1E 5DD. 020 7074 3200. Website: www.nhsconfed.org/networks/ambulanceservice

NHS Careers. 0345 606 0655. Websites: www.nhscareers.nhs.uk, www.jobs.nhs.uk and www.stepintothenhs.nhs.uk

Skills for Health, 2nd Floor, Goldsmiths House, Broad Plain, Bristol BS2 0JP. 0117 922 1155. Website: www.skillsforhealth.org.uk

 

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