NHS England is reportedly considering special training for paramedics to help alleviate the pressure on over-stretched general practice and urgent care services.

The proposals, says the Daily Mail, centre on a four-month training stint for paramedics so they can visit patients requiring out of hours GP services and prescribe medicines, according to the Daily Mail.

NHS England confirmed that it is currently running a consultation on whether some advanced-level paramedics should be given independent prescriber status, to give patients quicker access to treatment, but stressed there are no proposals for taking on routine GP appointments.

The vision, it said, is to develop 999 ambulance services into “community-based mobile urgent treatment service” which requires highly skilled paramedics with the ability to “see and treat” more patients at the scene, and thus help stem the flow of patients into A&E departments and other care services.

Paramedic independent prescribers “would have a comprehensive set of skills that could be utilised within a variety of multi-disciplinary teams”, both in community and acute settings, such as GP practices and walk-in centres, “to effectively manage the increase demand for urgent and emergency care services”.             

Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said any suggestions to help ease unprecedented pressures on GPs are welcome.

Unprecedented pressure

"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,” she said.

"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”.

The RCGP, NHS England and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society are already working on 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,” Dr Baker said.