Proposal by the CFOA to take over the English Ambulance Service

Monday, 11 October, 2010

The College of Paramedics understands that a proposal by the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) was presented to the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham this week, which advocates a takeover of English ambulance services by Fire and rescue services.

It is disappointing that, as the professional body for paramedics in the UK, the College of Paramedics were not consulted by CFOA prior to launching the proposal.

A detailed proposal has not yet been seen by the College and until we have sight of the the detail, we are unable to comment fully. However the College would like to make the following observations regarding the two services.

The ambulance service and in particular the paramedic profession has undergone huge change over the past decade.

Paramedics no longer simply provide basic first aid and transportation.Rather they now routinely treat a range of complicated conditions as first contact health professionals.This includes referals to other specialisms and discharge of patients where appropriate.
As a result of the development of the profession, paramedic education now sits firmly within the higher education sector at Dip.HE or B.Sc levels in most cases and paramedics are accepted as health professionals in their own right, working as an integral part of the NHS.
In terms of workload, whilst both services respond via the 999 system. Calls to the ambulance services can often considered as urgent, rather than emergency and much of the profession's development has been pushed by the need to manage a wide range of health conditions. Ambulance service workload is highly complex and 999 call turnover numbers far exceeds the fire service.

The ambulance services have recently undergone structural changes, moving from 46 in number to 12 regions. They have also adjusted to changes in performance criteria (Call Connect). Both of these have occurred since 2006. As can be expected from such momentous changes, these have been very challenging.

A takeover by fire services would necessitate further large-scale changes which in the College's view could prove damaging and costly.

The College welcomes cooperation between the two services which has been a defining feature if UK emergency service provision for so long.

In particular, first responder schemes which have proliferated in recent years in "hard to reach" areas have been welcomed and supported. We further continue to welcome all dialogue which seeks to improve the emergency services to the public, and which also capitalises on the contribution that paramedics have to offer.

The College is currently canvassing its members for their initial thoughts on the proposal. Meanwhile we await CFOA's detailed proposal and look forward to a dialogue with them.

Return to news menu