‘The paramedic will see you now’ – project boosts patient access to medical help

 Monday 23 April 2018

Patients seeking treatment for acute illness are being given access to additional medical resources under a new initiative which places advanced paramedics in Scottish GP surgeries.
 
The project, which is set to be expanded after successful trials in a number of GP practices, was introduced to improve access to care and treatment, cut waiting times, increase the amount of care provided at home, and utilise and enhance paramedics’ skills in the Primary Healthcare team.
 
Lauren O’Connor is one of 30 paramedics with additional training and qualifications taking part in the project – for the last nine months she and three colleagues have been working out of Regent Practice, in Greenock, and Gourock Medical Practice, using her training and 16 years of experience to help patients around Inverclyde.
 
“Most of my work involves visiting patients – many of whom are housebound in their own homes – and helping to treat acute illness such as chest infections, COPD or Urinary Tract Infections. Patients are often seen sooner by a paramedic and it means GPs have more time to dedicate to patients needing more complex care,” she said.
 
“As paramedics we can carry out an initial assessment and refer patients to a doctor or to hospital if the patient needs more complex treatment.
 
“Another benefit has been that, supported by GPs in the Practice, I have picked up lots of additional experience in treating patients; I’ve dealt with a whole range of situations which has really improved my skills and which definitely benefits patients both in my Primary Care role and also when I work on ambulance duties.”
 
Dr Jim Ward, Medical Director of the Scottish Ambulance Service, said the initiative was proving a success and has the potential to be rolled out further to meet increasing demands for urgent care – when patients become unexpectedly unwell - and to ensure more treatment is delivered within local communities.
 
“GP practices across the whole of Scotland are facing huge pressures; one of these is responding to patients who become unexpectedly unwell and who need to be assessed in addition to all the patients who already have appointments.

“Paramedics are specialised in assessing all types of emergency and urgent presentations and transferring this skillset into Primary Care has seen a real benefit in supporting GPs and others in the Primary Healthcare team. This project helps patients to access the help they need sooner, and often in the familiar setting of their own homes,” he added.
 
“Our paramedics are highly skilled and this initiative enables the wider health and care system to utilise their knowledge and experience to better benefit the communities they serve. Importantly it frees up a lot of time for GPs, meaning they can direct their focus where it’s most needed – on more complex cases.
 
“In addition, enhancing paramedics’ skills will enable them to work more autonomously and offer a wider range of treatments. Not only will this improve the care patients receive but it will potentially reduce the number of avoidable attendances at hospital Emergency Departments.”