In 2015 I made one of the best decisions of my career when I joined the College of Paramedics. If you’re not already a member, I urge you to do the same; you never know when you might need them.
I became a paramedic in 1996 after a distinguished career in the army. My 20 years’ experience includes specialised training, mentoring, and leadership roles with organisations as diverse as the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service and the London Ambulance Service. I’m also a previous winner of the Allied Health Professional Worker of the Year Award.
As a paramedic, you dread the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) envelope dropping onto the doormat, especially when it’s not renewal time.
I remember it vividly. It was a bright and sunny morning when it came through, the gleam of the white envelope imprinted with the HCPC logo stood out on my dark and dusty doormat.
The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, ‘hmmm HCPC’ I thought, ‘what do they want from me?’
I carefully peeled back the envelope and withdrew the letter. As I slowly read through I realised my worst fears had come true, it was a complaint about my fitness to practise.
The wording of the letter I found quite petrifying; terms and phrases that were alien to me that I found quite intimidating given the situation in which I now found myself. I felt extremely vulnerable and quickly formed the impression that I had a guilty verdict hanging over me without even having been able to put my side of the story. What felt worse was it appeared they’d taken months to prepare the case and I had only seven days to respond.
As I took a step back, the magnitude of the accusation dawned on me. This one thing could ruin my career, which would also have a devastating effect on my family.
I sat on the bottom of my stairs, with my head in my hands wondering what on earth I should do next – ‘Where do I start? How do I start?’
As I sat there contemplating life, I remembered as a member of the College of Paramedics I receive fitness to practise insurance as part of my full membership.
I nervously picked up the phone and made the call to the College and was greeted with a supportive and sympathetic ear at the end of the phone who quickly calmed me down. I was advised to call the insurance company to lodge my issue. I called them straight away and again, I was greeted by a very friendly and supportive person. Whilst on the phone they sent me a simple form to fill in via email, which I sent straight back. I soon received a phone call from the legal team providing excellent advice and reassuring me that they would handle everything. Their first job was to contact the HCPC with a strongly worded letter for an extension to the time-frame they had given me to respond, which in their opinion as well as mine, was unreasonable. They also informed the HCPC that they would be handling my case, which took a huge weight off my mind.
I was given a list of things they required and a number at which they could be contacted on. This number was always answered, I was never fobbed off and if in a meeting they always called me back.
Both the solicitors and the College were excellent in providing support and guidance and keeping me informed at every step of the way. The solicitor put everything together and assured me that my case wouldn't even go to a hearing, they were surprised it had even got this far.
The file was duly sent and only four days later we received a reply of ‘no case to answer’. This was great, however, the whole process had taken eight months to conclude. The College and the solicitor were fantastic. I cannot thank them enough. For less than £10 a month, the support I received was second to none and I would strongly advise any paramedic to join the College, not just for the insurance but for the support of having someone at the end of a phone.
The views expressed in this article are made by a member of the College of Paramedics.