Paramedics will not replace GPs, says NHS

Paramedics will not replace GPs, says NHS

Various media stories at the weekend claimed proposals were being considered under which several hundred paramedics would be trained to do the job of GPs including carrying out routine appointments, seeing patients out-of-hours and prescribing drugs, after taking part in a four-month long part-time course.

However, NHS England has denied many of these claims.

The topic was first raised in February when NHS England launched a consultation on introducing independent prescribing by paramedics across the UK.

Suzanne Rastrick, chief allied health professions officer at NHS England said: “The NHS England consultation on proposals to introduce independent prescribing by paramedics … considers whether advanced level paramedics should be given rights to prescribe medicines to patients.

“It makes no proposals in relation to paramedics carrying out routine appointments.

“The potential benefit, subject to consultation, is that patients would be able to access the medicines they need in a timely manner, which means their treatment will be more effective.”

The evidence from the consultation is due to be reviewed by the Commission on Human Medicines in October.

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said there was some merit in the ideas proposed, but stressed that it was inappropriate for anyone to consider replacing GPs with paramedics.

“With patients in some parts of the country now having to wait a month for a GP appointment, we welcome any suggestions that will help to ease the unprecedented pressures on GPs and help us to deliver the care our patients need,” said Dr Baker.

“We would be interested in having community paramedics as part of practice teams who could respond to urgent requests for home visits, both in and out of hours.

“But this must not replace the GP appointment - and paramedics must never be used as a substitute for GPs. GPs are highly trained medical doctors, and our skills at being able to diagnose and treat the 'whole person' through initial consultation and the unique relationship we build up with our patients over time cannot be subsumed by other health professionals.”

The college was working with NHS England and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society on a pilot scheme to employ pharmacists in GP surgeries as part of the practice team.

Paramedics could add another dimension to this skill-mix, but only if their competences and expertise were appropriately directed, she added.

By Adrian O'Dowd

On Medica, 17th August 2015

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