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Consultation on the qualification for entry to the Register for paramedics

Posted: 23.10.2017

Comments: 1

The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) began consulting on the 25 September 2017 on what should be the threshold level of qualification for entry to the Register for paramedics. Details of the consultation, which closes on 15 December 2017, can be accessed by clicking here.  Page 4 of the document sets out how individuals and organisations can respond which include: in writing; by completing the HCPC easy-to-use online survey; or, by email.

The consultation document proposes that the level of qualification in the current SET 1, which is the first of the standards of education and training, should be changed.  It goes on to detail the reasons why, including the changing nature and complexity of the role of paramedics and illustrates the ongoing diversity in current qualifications across the UK.  It is important to note that any resultant change to SET 1 would not affect existing registered paramedics or students who are part way through pre-registration education and training programmes.

The consultation seeks views on whether the qualification level should be a) diploma; b) degree; or, c) other.  It also puts forward the possibility of diploma entry first then a further consultation soon afterwards over whether the qualification should move to degree entry.

The College of Paramedics has long held the view that the requirements as laid out in the current SET are no longer fit-for-purpose and that the paramedic profession should move to degree-level entry.  The College fully supports the rationale for change as set out in the consultation and that any change will not affect existing registered paramedics or students already undertaking approved education and training programmes.  

It is worth noting also that the Quality Assurance Agency for higher education (QAA), the independent body entrusted with monitoring, and advising on, standards and quality in UK higher education re-published the Subject Benchmark Statement – Paramedics in 2016 wherein the benchmark standards are defined as the threshold for bachelor's degree with honours (FHEQ level 6/SCQF level 10).

The College of Paramedics does not agree with the stepped approach of a diploma-level entry followed by further consultation sometime later over degree-level entry.  It believes that such a step will only add more time to what has been an extremely lengthy debate lasting almost four years having passed since the College funded the PEEP Report (which is referred to in the consultation).  Not only is a stepped approach unnecessary and inappropriate in the College’s view, but very likely will create more work for higher education institutions than if the degree-level were to be adopted nationally.  

The College of Paramedics urges both its members and registered paramedics to respond to the HCPC consultation and give their support to a change in the entry-level requirement to degree-level.

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It is astonishing that in 2017 there is still a debate over the minimum level of education for becoming a Paramedic. This is a sad indictment of how stagnant the CoP’s leadership has been since it’s inception in 2001. Just a telling is the fact that the debate is being led by the HCPC. Paramedics are still without their own regulatory body, unlike Nurses and Doctors who have independent, representative, regulatory bodies which are dedicated to their respective profession, and in which the registrants can rightly be proud of. Sharing a regulatory platform with 15 other professions, which includes ‘hearing aid dispensers’ and ‘art therapists’, is not something I will ever be proud of.

Anyway, back to topic – much has been commented regarding the ‘urgent and unscheduled care’ (UUC) that Paramedics are now dealing with, as if this is something new. When I joined the LAS in 2005 as an EMT, the vast majority of our work was ‘urgent and unscheduled care’, had this definition existed back then. None of our training, either as an EMT or later, as a Paramedic, prepared us for any of what 90% of our work load would consist of.

Perhaps it is helpful to consider the two profession that were already specialising in UUC before it was recognized as the bulk of Paramedics workload – Nurse Practitioners (NP) and GPs. NPs traditionally have accumulated several years of experience before commencing a Masters Level qualification. In the UK a nurse must be progressing towards a MSc but does not actually need to have graduated yet. I do not need to describe the professional journey a Doctor must travel before qualifying as a GP. UUC demands a unique skill set coupled with an extremely broad knowledge base. The breadth and depth of experience required for this unique specialty cannot be taught in a classroom.
It is also worth considering at what point the human brain stops growing. It is understood that the last part of the brain to mature is the area that processes consequences, and this occurs around age 25. This explains much of the risk-taking behaviour in the late teens and early twenties. I do not need to explain the importance of processing consequences in pre-hospital emergency healthcare.

I have not practiced front line for several years and currently split my time between urgent care centres and the OOH clinics. Recently I have been mentoring student paramedics in the final year of their course. Some of them are already so demoralised and burnout they are ready to quit. One the students was 21 years old and will be practicing as a front-line Paramedic, responsible for other less qualified colleagues, in a few months’ time.
As so here we are, debating whether a 21-year-old requires a degree to practice as a paramedic.

Added by: Robinibbott on: 24.11.2017

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