Pay survey reveals two thirds of paramedics considering leaving ambulance service

Adobe Spark (5)Two thirds of staff say they will consider leaving the ambulance service if a change to the pay banding of paramedics is not made, according to a survey carried out by the Journal of Paramedic Practice.

An online poll completed by 1084 paramedics has revealed that 67% will consider leaving the ambulance service if the Government continues to fall back on its 2015 promise of reviewing the banding system to recognise the skill set of paramedics. Additionally, 87% felt the Government has misled ambulance service staff over promises for pay.

One respondent said: ‘Increased pressure to use alternative pathways, treat at home, discharge on scene. Increased level of assessment and treatment options, together with increased expectation of qualifications and study, but for no extra pay? Ridiculous.’

Another said: ‘Several of my colleagues and friends are struggling to pay their home bills and have left the job for better paying roles in the Arab states.’

Commenting on the findings, Gerry Egan, chief executive officer for the College of Paramedics, said:

‘Since its establishment, the College of Paramedics has worked hard to develop the paramedic profession in the interests of providing the best possible care to patients and to ensure that paramedics receive due recognition for the service they give to society.

‘This combined with the increased reliance on paramedics by the health system, which has come about for a number of reasons, means that there has been a continuous increase in the expectations of the range and quality of services that paramedics provide. So it comes as no surprise that the results of the Journal of Paramedic Practice’s survey are similar to a survey conducted by the College of Paramedics last year.

In 2014, paramedics were among the thousands of health professionals who took to the picket line in the first NHS strike over pay in 32 years.

The dispute came as ministers in England awarded NHS staff a 1% increase in pay, but only for those without automatic progression-in-the-job rises.

Despite the independent NHS Pay Review Body recommending a 1% rise across all pay scales, ministers claimed this was an ‘unaffordable’ cost.

In a desperate effort to resolve the pay dispute of 2014/15, the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, agreed to a number of commitments to ambulance staff, including a review of the banding system.

Current vacancy rates for the paramedic profession are at 10%. This represents 1 250 vacancies out of a total workforce of 12 500. It is believed that these high vacancy rates are due to changes made to the healthcare system in recent years. This includes a shift in focus to treat patients at home rather than conveying them to A&E, as well as a change in the nature and volume of job opportunities for paramedics.

Almost all respondents (93%) of the survey believed that the current scope of practice of paramedics is changing as a result of increased skills and competencies. Additionally, 94% felt band 6 of the Agenda for Change pay scale was a more appropriate pay band due to the level of responsibility and autonomy practised within the paramedic role, including triage, referrals, and decisions around non conveyance. Overall, 96% believed their pay did not reflect their responsibilities.

However, not all believed that current pay for paramedics has contributed to increasing vacancy rates and the number of people leaving the profession.

‘I disagree that this would be a reason for paramedics leaving,’ said one respondent. ‘With the role having changed so much, I believe that our advanced practice colleagues (paramedic practitioner/emergency care practitioner) are leaving to work in hospitals. There is potential to earn more money, better chance of a break, and better working conditions. I disagree that pay alone is a reason staff are leaving.’

According to Egan, the significance behind the figures for those considering leaving the profession may be unclear:

‘The responses regarding those intending to leave their positions as paramedics may be blurred somewhat between those intending to leave ambulance service employers and those who might leave the profession,’ he said. ‘It is a well-known fact that many paramedics are leaving ambulance services to take up opportunities in walk-in centres, minor injuries units and the like.’

A large number of respondents felt that it was work pressures and stress that have contributed most to the number of paramedics leaving the ambulance service:

One respondent said: ‘I don’t think pay is a factor in staff leaving. Lack of retention [is] more likely due to increased workloads, poor culture and public expectation.’

Another respondent said: ‘There have been some paramedics with MSc or BSc that have left to find better paid jobs. But the majority of paramedics leaving the profession is due to the increasing workload and the undertaking of urgent care alongside emergency work. Demand, stress and pressure are why paramedics are leaving, not money.’

Stress and burnout remain an undeniable issue facing ambulance staff, with paramedics in England taking 41 243 days off in 2014 as a result of stress-related illnesses. This has had an inevitable impact on those choosing to leave the ambulance service. Only a handful of ambulance services have agreed to pay paramedics Agenda for Change band 6 in the hope of recruiting and retaining paramedics .

Another significant finding was that 66% of respondents believed there are no adequate opportunities for career progression.

A common consensus was that progression only came in the form of management positions, with few opportunities for promotion in a clinical capacity.

One respondent said: ‘There are a number of areas within the paramedic profession to progress to, such as critical care roles or minor health roles, or management; however, these areas still do not have the same pay scale as other health sectors, meaning progression, while increasing skills, does not increase pay, therefore [it] is seen as a way to gain skills in order to leave to a sector with increased pay.’

However, this was not felt by all, with one respondent highlighting the work that the College of Paramedics has done to outline career pathways:

‘The College of Paramedics (and South East Coast Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust) has done a lot to develop career pathways. Integration of the out-of-hours providers and the ambulance service would provide even more opportunity for paramedics to progress as well as improving the response times for patients.’

Commenting on the suggestion there are insufficient career progression opportunities within the paramedic profession, Egan said: ‘The College would argue that its career framework sets out the roadmap for career progression and the shortage of opportunities may be a problem to be addressed by the main employers of paramedics.’

As a result of the Government not reviewing the banding system for paramedics, the unions UNISON, GMB and Unite conducted consultative ballots of ambulance staff. The responses indicated that ambulance staff in England will take part in industrial action, including strike action, if the Government continues to not deliver in its promises over pay.

Each union is reporting their ballot results to members, before consulting over the next steps.

Results published by Unite show that 66% of members voted yes to taking strike action and action short of strike action, with a turnout of 31%.

Results from the other two unions have not yet been made public.

A joint statement issued by the unions said:

‘We are clear that ambulance staff have waited for 12 months and are not going to wait longer. If possible, we would also like to avoid a dispute, and the disruption that strike action will bring, however we know that ambulance staff are not prepared to wait indefinitely.

‘We will be calling on Government to make real commitments to ambulance staff, within clear timescales. If there is a genuine will to avert a dispute then we will pause the move to a full industrial action ballot while we hold constructive discussions.’

While the National Ambulance Strategic Partnership Forum have made a formal request to the National Job Evaluation Group to look at the National Job Evaluation paramedic profile, only a handful of ambulance services have agreed to pay paramedics Agenda for Change band 6 in the hope of recruiting and retaining paramedics. This includes East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust. There is currently no indication that other services will follow suit.

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 1 July 2016.

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Delivering a promise over pay

Project M (2)

The junior doctor dispute over pay has taken up a lot of space in the news in recent months, yet they are not the only health professionals who are displeased with Government plans.

In 2014, paramedics were among the thousands of health professionals who took to the picket line in the first NHS strike over pay in 32 years. In a desperate effort to resolve the pay dispute of 2014/15, the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, agreed to a number of commitments to ambulance staff, including a review of the banding system to recognise the skill set of paramedics (Hunt, 2015). Roll on 2016 and there is still no suggestion that Mr Hunt will deliver on his promise. Understandably this has angered many ambulance staff.

As a result, the unions UNISON, Unite and GMB have announced they will be balloting their ambulance service members to see if they are willing to take industrial action over the Government’s failure to keep its promise.

The numbers of paramedics leaving the profession has been increasing year-on-year (UNISON et al, 2015). This has resulted in the addition of paramedics to the shortage occupation list (SOL), with vacancy rates running at approximately 10% of the total 12 500 paramedic workforce in England (Migration Advisory Committee, 2015). One of the key reasons people cited leaving, or considering leaving, the ambulance service was pay (UNISON et al, 2015).

The proposal set out in the Urgent and Emergency Care Review (NHS England, 2013) to extend paramedic training and skills, and develop 999 ambulances into mobile treatment centres, emphasises how the current scope of practice of paramedics is changing. As paramedics take on increasing responsibilities, it is only fair their pay is amended to reflect this shift. The short supply and high demand of paramedics means that ambulance services are facing a conceivable recruitment and retention crisis. However, while the National Ambulance Strategic Partnership Forum have made a formal request to the National Job Evaluation Group to look at the National Job Evaluation paramedic profile, only a handful of ambulance services have agreed to pay paramedics Agenda for Change band 6 in the hope of recruiting and retaining paramedics.

The Journal of Paramedic Practice would like to find out how its readers feel about their current pay and conditions. I therefore urge you to take 3 minutes to complete our online survey.

References

Hunt J (2015) Letter from the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Health, to Christina McAnea on Agenda for Change Proposal, 27 January 2015. http://tinyurl.com/hcwlk7g (accessed 29 April 2016)

Migration Advisory Committee (2015) Partial review of the Shortage Occupation Lists for the UK and for Scotland. MAC, London. http://tinyurl.com/qdaqbbl (accessed 29 April 2016)

NHS England (2013) High quality care for all, now and for future generations: Transforming urgent and emergency care services in England—Urgent and Emergency Care Review End of Phase 1 Report. NHS England, Leeds

UNISON, Unite, GMB (2015) NHS Pay Review Body Evidence: Recruitment and retention of ambulance staff. http://tinyurl.com/grd59l2 (accessed 29 April 2016)

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 6 May 2016.

The need for optimism at a challenging time for the NHS emerges as key theme of Ambulance Leadership Forum

The Association of Ambulance Chief Executives’ (AACE) annual Ambulance Leadership Forum (ALF) took place this year on 9–10 February at the Hinckley Island Hotel in Leicestershire. Designed to stimulate debate and ideas about the on-going development of emergency and urgent care, delegates were encouraged to share best practice and discuss issues pertinent to the sector.

The theme for this year’s event focused around the future look and feel of ambulance service provision and was largely based on AACEs document published last year, A vision for the ambulance service: 2020 and beyond. This vision presents ambulance services as mobile healthcare providers operated in an extended range of care settings, doing more diagnostic work, more treatment, more health promotion, and providing patients with more services that before.

Delegates were welcomed to the conference by AACE chair and West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust CEO, Anthony Marsh, who called on attendees to embrace the new ambulance initiatives on offer and improve outcomes. He noted that ‘the challenge we are confronted with now [in the NHS] offers us a real opportunity,’ and hoped proceedings for the day would help influence national policy.

The landscape of urgent and emergency care: implementing the Five Year Forward View

The opening address was given by Chris Hopson, CEO of NHS Providers, who asked whether the provider sector had the capacity to deliver the changes outlined in NHS England’s Five Year Forward View? Hopson said that all Trusts would be under pressure to achieve their financial targets in 2016–2017 and that one of the biggest debates would be over standards and performance, especially for ambulances. He highlighted that the majority of providers have found themselves in the ‘needs improvement’ box in terms of Care Quality Commission rating, and that we cannot fix many problems found in the NHS unless we have more vertical integration of health and care and horizontal collaboration.

Prof Keith Willett, national director for acute episodes of care for NHS England, then spoke on the new landscape for urgent and emergency care. He started by mentioning he sat on a sharp fence between the clinical world of service providers and Whitehall, and noted it is a sharp fence. The current provision of urgent and emergency care services sees 24 million calls to the NHS and 7 million emergency ambulance journeys a year. Willett said for those people with urgent but non-life threatening needs we must provide ‘highly responsive, effective and personalised services outside of hospital, and deliver care in or as close to people’s homes as possible.’ For those people with more serious or life-threatening emergency needs, he said: ‘We should ensure they are treated in centres with the very best expertise and facilities in order to maximise their chances of survival and a good recovery.’ As we move into the final phase of the Urgent and Emergency Care Review, the focus is on implementing new models of care and ways of working. He stressed that the ambulance service needs to come to the fore and drive change, and that no paramedic should make a decision in isolation, but should have support from whole of the NHS.

Transforming health and social care: innovation and leadership

Following the first coffee break of the day, Bob Williams, CEO of North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust, spoke on devolution in Manchester. After providing a background to the health and social care system in Greater Manchester and the Greater Manchester Devolution Agreement, Williams outlined the principles around the Greater Manchester devolution plan, which include: radical upgrade in population health prevention, transforming care in localities, standardising acute hospital care, and standardising clinical support and back office services. Williams said Greater Manchester devolution offers an opportunity to transform health and social care, and that ambulance service has the tools, the players and the crucial elements to help make the healthcare system changes needed.

Prof Paresh Wankhade of Edge Hill University then spoke on leadership in the emergency services, focusing on interoperability and innovation. Wankhade first set the scene by outlining the leadership challenges faced by emergency services, before highlighting the key issues impacting workforce development, the need for suitable leadership for empowering and motivating staff, provided a critical overview of the state of interoperability, and closed by speaking about innovation in an era of uncertainty. For the ambulance service, he noted an increasing demand but lesser proportion of life-threatening calls, and that performance and quality are unsustainable with current levels of funding. He went on to say that there is very little evidence to suggest that enough is being done to support the workforce for new challenges and performance pressures, and that there is an important role for the College of Paramedics to prepare practitioners for the future.

Leading in challenging times

After lunch, delegates heard a recorded message from Lord Prior of Brampton, parliamentary under secretary of state for NHS productivity, who commended the work that is being done by ambulance services across the country, and apologised on behalf of the secretary of state for health, Jeremy Hunt, who had to pull out the conference last minute.
This was followed by Rob Webster, CEO of NHS Confederation, who gave one of the most engaging talks of the day on leading in challenging times. He began by explaining there has been a 24% increase in activity for Category A calls for ambulance services since 2011. He went on to stress the need for values-based leadership and system leadership, and that leading should come from every seat in the NHS. If senior ambulance managers do not understand the organisation’s values, then it is difficult to expect staff to understand them. He closed by noting that the NHS is made of people, and that it is the collective commitment, drive and energy that make up an organisation, and what makes a successful future.

Janette Turner, director of the medical research unit at the University of Sheffield, then spoke on managing urgent care outside hospital. Looking at data from March 2015, 27.9–57.6% of 999 calls were not conveyed to emergency departments in England. On population utilisation of emergency ambulance services the UK receives 13 calls per 100 population, compared to Belgium, which has the highest number of calls per population in Europe at 33. Turner said that outcomes of evidence on telephone-based service involved accuracy, compliance, satisfaction, costs, service impact and access. While accuracy is high for minimising risk, inaccuracy tends to come in the form of over triage. Considering the role of management by ambulance clinicians outside hospital, Turner said a small number of high-quality studies support extended paramedic roles as they offer safe decisions, reduced emergency department transports, high satisfaction and are cost effective. However, she did note that decision-making is complex and needs to be underpinned by the right education.

Introducing new delivery models

After another coffee break, Richard Murray, director of policy at the King’s Fund, spoke on new delivery models for urgent and emergency care and NHS Planning Guidance. Murray outlined the key features of NHS Planning Guidance before discussing the implications for urgent and emergency care and ambulance providers. He said it was a game of two halves: a one-year plan for 2016/17, with existing organisations as the key building block, switching to place-based plans for 2017/2018 to 2020/2021. Taken together, Murray said they offer a radical re-drawing of the boundaries in the NHS.

The final talk of the day was delivered by Dr Phil Foster, assistant medical director for Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, who spoke on the West Yorkshire Urgent and Emergency Care Vanguard. He explained how the service’s collective local vision was for all patients with emergency and urgent care needs within West Yorkshire to get ‘the right care in the right place—first time—every time.’ The aim was to give patients access to urgent and emergency care through 999 and 111 and given an improved experience with care provided closer to home. This would be a standard service offering across West Yorkshire.

Celebrating excellence at the AACE Outstanding Service Awards

The evening saw delegates celebrate the AACE Outstanding Service Awards. Sponsored by Ferno UK Ltd in aid of the Ambulance Services Charity, ambulance service employees form across England who have gone above and beyond the call of duty were recognised and commended for their outstanding service. The Outstanding Paramedic Award went to Abigail Evans, a cycle response unit paramedic for London Ambulance Service NHS Trust. The Outstanding Mentor or Tutor Award went to Chris Mathews, a critical care paramedic with South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. Outstanding Innovation and Change Awards went to Adam Aston, a paramedic with West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust and Thomas Heywood, a clinical manager for Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust. The Outstanding Non-Paramedic Clinician Award went to Steve Wainwright, and emergency care assistant for East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust. The Outstanding Control Services Employee Award went to Craig Foster, a call operator for North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. The Outstanding Manager Award went to Karen Gardner, operations manager for North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. The Outstanding Support Services Award went to Tez Westwood, Hazardous Area Response Tram support technician for East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust. The Outstanding Senior Management Award went to Tracy Nicholls, head of quality governance for East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust and the Outstanding Welfare and Wellbeing Award went to Ben Lambert, a team leader for South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust.

Workshops allow delegates to discuss emerging themes

The second day, co-hosted by NHS Confederation, featured a morning of facilitated workshops, concluding with a conference summary and forward view. Delegates were given a choice to attend workshops on the themes of ‘our workforce’, ‘technological and digital enablement’, and ‘vanguards and innovation’.

A summary of the main themes discussed in the workforce workshop include the need to engage with staff meaningfully, understanding culture but also taking change, collaboration, and a recognition of whether or not we are doing as much as we can on mental health and race equality.

The technology workshop had a key theme around innovation, and an emphasis that ambulance services are much more than a transportation service. There was a strong feeling that there needs to be better capture and use of data in technological advancements, that procurement needs to be looked at as a whole-systems approach, and that ambulance services should embrace social media.

Within the vanguard workshop there was a clear sense of the great work that is being done across the country. It was recognised that a lot of the components of a really good system are in place, but that we have to learn from each other’s organisations. There was also an emphasis on ensuring that the right culture is in place within services.

With difficulty comes opportunity

The conference came to a close with Anthony Marsh commending the optimism shared by delegates during what is a challenging time for the NHS. He quoted the BBC programme Inside Out, saying there is ‘no need to be miserable, we are winning the war.’ Martin Flaherty, managing director of AACE, then remarked on how sobering it was to hear about the challenging times ahead, particularly around finance. However, he said with difficulty comes opportunity and that as a sector we are always doing our best when in difficulty.

Delegates left with much food for thought and plenty of ideas for implementing change within their own services. Feedback has been positive, with one delegate saying: ‘Excellent conference, completely relevant to our practice in emergency medicine,’ while another remarked: ‘I think the organisation was superb and the quality of speakers and breadth of subject matter was really relevant.’ Congratulations must be extended to AACE for an engaging two days, and delegates can look forward to returning for another year.

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 4 March 2016.

Sir Robert Francis publishes report on whistleblowing in the NHS

Sir Robert Francis QC, Chair of the Freedom to Speak Up Review, has outlined a number of measures to ensure NHS staff are free to speak up about patient safety concerns in the future.

His report to Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, published on 11 February, identifies an on-going problem in the NHS, where staff are deterred from speaking up when they have concerns and can face shocking concerns when they do.

The review incorporated the experiences of over 600 people, while an additional 19,000 staff responded to an online survey.

It revealed that many staff want to speak up but are put off because they fear victimisation, while others feel their concerns won’t be listened to.

Sir Robert said:

‘Failure to speak up can cost lives. I began this review with an open mind about whether there are things getting in the way of NHS staff speaking up. However, the evidence received by the Review has confirmed that there is a serious issue within the NHS. This issue is not about whistleblowing—it is fundamentally a patient safety issue.’

Proposals from the Review include:

• Action at every level to make raising concerns part of every member of staff’s normal working life.
• A Freedom to Speak Up Guardian in every NHS Trust.
• A National Independent Officer who can support local Guardians when cases go wrong.
• A new support scheme to help good NHS staff who have found themselves out of a job.

To view the Report in full, visit: www.freedomtospeakup.org.uk

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 17 February 2015.

The waiting game: resolving the crisis

Last month saw the highest number of patients who waited more than 4 hours in Type 1 A&E units (major A&E) before they were treated since figures began in 2010 (Campbell, 2014).

Figures from NHS England revealed that for the week ending 7 December, 35 373 patients waited more than 4 hours from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge at Type 1 A&E units (NHS England, 2014a). Of the total number of attendances, only 87.7% were treated in 4 hours or less. This is below the target set by the Government of 95%. This also marks a 66% increase on figures from the same week last year (NHS England, 2013). For the week ending 12 December, this rose to 44 153, which represented a drop in the number of patients treated within 4 hours to 84.7% (NHS England, 2014b).

The number of patients spending between 4 and 12 hours on a trolley from decision to admit to admission was similarly high: 7 760 patients for the week ending 7 December and 10 126 for the week ending 14 December, respectively (NHS England, 2014a; 2014b). This is more than double the numbers of 2013 (NHS England, 2013).

Following a decision made by health secretary Jeremy Hunt not to publish performance figures over the festive period, so as to give staff a break, data published on 6 January revealed that only 92.6% of patients were seen in 4 hours from October to December (Triggle, 2015b). This performance is the worst quarterly result in a decade.

It is undoubted that A&E departments are facing difficult times. At a King’s Fund conference in December, Prof Sir Bruce Keogh admitted that the health system is ‘creaking’ and ‘under pressure’ as a result of the strain brought on by increased attendances during winter months. The need for radical change within the urgent care system, therefore, has never been so apparent.

In England, an extra £700 million has been set aside to help the NHS, through the provision of additional staff. However, Dr Clifford Mann, president of the College of Emergency Medicine, has raised concerns that it has not gone through to all the places it should (Triggle, 2015a).

With major incidents being declared at a number of hospitals, new measures need to be implemented if targets are to be met. Keogh’s vision for a new urgent and emergency care system outlined in the Urgent and Emergency Care Review could present an answer, but it is expected to take 3–5 years to enact the major transformational changes. Although the Keogh Review wants to avoid risky ‘big bang’ change, that change is needed now. It is, therefore, a neverending waiting game.

References

Campbell D (2014) Record A&E waits show NHS is cracking under pressure—doctors’ chief. The Guardian. http://tinyurl.com/llm54sy (accessed 5 January 2015)

NHS England (2013) A&E weekly activity statistics, NHS and independent sector organisations in England. Week ending 8/12/2013. NHS England, London

NHS England (2014a) A&E weekly activity statistics, NHS and independent sector organisations in England. Week ending 7/12/2014. NHS England, London

NHS England (2014b) A&E weekly activity statistics, NHS and independent sector organisations in England. Week ending 14/12/2014. NHS England, London

Triggle N (2015a) A&E performance in England ‘likely to hit new low’. BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-30679949 (accessed 5 January 2015)

Triggle N (2015b) A&E waiting in England worst for a decade. BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-30679949 (accessed 6 January 2015)

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 9 January 2015.

Hunt unveils plan to turn around NHS hospitals

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has set out the Government’s plans to help prevent future failures of care and safety at NHS Hospitals.

Following a review by NHS medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, which investigated the quality of care and treatment provided by 14 hospital trusts that are persistent outliers on mortality indicators, Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority have already placed 11 of those Trusts into ‘special measures’.

According to the Health Secretary, ‘It is entirely possible, even likely, that other hospitals will have to go into special measures.’

The new inspection regime unveiled by the Health Secretary will identify more Trusts that need turning around.

Support given to the 11 Trusts already placed into special measures will come from NHS hospitals with the highest standards of patient care and safety.

Each of the 11 Trusts will be partnered with one of the best NHS Trusts in the country in innovative improvement contracts.

‘For too long, patients have had to put up with poor care because it was inconvenient to expose and tackle failure,’ said Hunt.

‘I am committing to total transparency on progress in these hospitals, and to leave no stone unturned in our mission to turn them round.’

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 25 September 2013.

The road to better patient care

The Francis report (The Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry, 2013) published earlier this year emphasised the need for a cultural change within the NHS. Highlighting the failure of the Mid Stafforshire NHS Foundation Trust to detect poor quality care and to ensure that its services met the standards that the public expects, the 3-volume, 1782-page report called for a patient-centred culture, which has a commitment to serve and protect patients.

Though the Francis report focused on a single NHS Trust, its recommendation for the need of a structure of fundamental standards, which identify the basic principles of care a patient can expect, and stronger healthcare leadership, are applicable to the NHS as a whole.

The provision of safe and effective care often starts with the paramedic, and so it is imperative that the highest quality services possible are delivered. As a profession that is rapidly taking on increasing responsibilities within the NHS, the paramedic profession has to ensure it is able to keep up with its broadening demands. One of the ways it can ensure this is done is by getting the simple things right. The importance of thorough patient assessment and accurate history taking cannot be undervalued, as it is this that informs the clinician of the appropriate action and treatment to carry out. This issue of the Journal of Paramedic Practice goes back to basics by exploring the fundamentals of paramedicine that are often overlooked, with articles on integrated care, patient assessment and history taking.

In response to the Francis report, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced a new £260 million fund for hospitals (Department of Health, 2013) that will be put towards increasing the use of technology for patient records. Outdated paper- based systems for patient notes will be replaced by computer systems, making history taking and prescribing easier. This marks a critical step in the NHS’ plan to go digital by 2018. Organisations such as St Helens and Knowlsley NHS Trust have had their patient records accessible online for health professionals to access when needed, while at New Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, an online ‘portal’ allows patients to view and update their own medical records so that health professionals can get instant real-time updates should they need them.

History taking forms a notable part of the paramedic’s overall patient assessment, and so the ability to have more accurate details on a patient as a result of up-to-date technology systems means that better and faster care can be delivered. Not only this, but it will mean transferal to specialist departments will also be easier due to the ability to send patient records electronically.

If a truly patient-centred culture within the NHS is to be made a reality, the needs of the patient have to be properly understood and assessed. Getting the basics right is surely a step in the right direction.

References:

Department of Health (2013) £269 million invested in patient safety plans. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/260- million-invested-in-patient-safety-plans (accessed 30 May 2013)

The Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry (2013) Report of the of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry. Chaired by Robert Francis QC. 3 vols. The Stationery Office, London

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 10 June 2013.