Paramedic shortage leads LAS to recruit from overseas

London Ambulance Service NHS Trust (LAS) has been granted permission from the UK Border Agency to sponsor 100 work visas a year for non-European paramedics.

The initiative comes as part of a drive to help tackle the national shortage of British paramedics.

‘Year on year increases in demand and a requirement to have more registered health care professionals responding to patients means we are in need of a greater number of paramedics,’ said Mark Whitbread, Director of Paramedic Education and Development, LAS.

‘The same applies for other ambulance trusts across the UK but there is only a finite number of registered British paramedics.’

LAS currently has around 250 vacancies for registered paramedics.

While there are no plans to send a UK team overseas to help with recruitment, the service is looking to target countries such as Australia and New Zealand, where the skills and training of paramedics closely match those of the UK.

The service is also working with universities, sponsoring student paramedics and encouraging ex-military personnel to consider a career in the ambulance service in an attempt to increase their number of paramedics. However, Mr Whitbread stresses that it takes up to three years for those entering the profession to qualify as a paramedic, which is why LAS have decided to look abroad for new recruits.

Martin Flaherty, Managing Director of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE), said:

‘The national shortage of paramedics is affecting all trusts and AACE is working closely with Health Education England to improve the situation. Ambulance Trusts are also having to think of ever more creative ways to recruit vacant posts.’

Once the paramedics are recruited they will undergo a short conversion course enabling them to treat patients in the UK.

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 17 February 2014.

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