Whilst the College of Paramedics is delighted that the UK was the first country in the world to commence the roll-out of a COVID-19 vaccine programme, it is deeply concerned that there may not be a consistent approach to providing the vaccines to paramedics and other frontline healthcare workers. Today’s news of the approval of the AstraZeneca (Oxford) vaccine provides us with a real opportunity to tackle this issue quickly.
Richard Webber, Director of Communications for the College of Paramedics and Registered Paramedic said:
“Paramedics and other frontline ambulance workers are at significant risk of infection from COVID-19, and more so as the NHS struggles to cope with demand. Ambulance staff not only enter uncontrolled environments in patient’s homes but are further and significantly exposed to COVID-19 due to some of the worst levels of ambulance handover delays. Every day crews are sitting outside hospitals with ill patients, sometimes for many hours at a time. We know that this increases the risk of infection as ambulance staff are taking in many more COVID-19 positive patients than were seen in the first wave of the pandemic.”
Tracy Nicholls, Registered Paramedic and Chief Executive of the College of Paramedics said:
“This month yet another paramedic lost their life to COVID-19, and in the UK and around the world ambulance staff are mourning the deaths of their colleagues. Our hearts go out to them and their families and recognise the ongoing courage that every one of them has shown during this pandemic.
Now the virus has mutated, and its transmission is easier, combined with long ambulance handover delays at hospital, paramedics and ambulance clinicians are at even greater risk of catching this terrible disease. We must also vaccinate those paramedics working in primary or urgent care or in emergency departments alongside medical and nursing colleagues whose exposure to patients with COVID-19 is equally risky.
We recognise the need to protect those vulnerable patients in our hospitals and communities, but we must have contingency plans to look after the staff so that the dedicated care can continue for all those who call for help.”
David Davis, Mental Health Lead for the College of Paramedics said:
“The impact and burden of this disease on paramedics and other ambulance workers is profound.
Paramedics have been courageous throughout this pandemic but they are also deeply worried. Many have said that their biggest concern is taking the disease home to their families; but they are worried about catching it too.
After many months of battling this disease, they are tired, and stressed and we are hearing reports of greater levels of mental ill health amongst the profession.
Whilst we are working with the COVID-19 Healthcare Support Appeal, NHS Practitioner Health and The Ambulance Staff Charity to support paramedic mental health, we need to protect this precious workforce from COVID-19 too.”
The College of Paramedics urges the regional NHS vaccination centres to prioritise paramedics and other frontline ambulance staff for the available slots and for urgent inclusion of the frontline workforce for the AstraZeneca (Oxford) vaccine. This should also include those who work in the 999 operations centres and NHS 111 services and who are providing an absolutely vital service during these times of huge demand from people who need advice promptly.