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Open Access Providing medicines in emergency and urgent care: a survey of specialist paramedics’ experiences of medication supply and views on paramedic independent prescribing

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Introduction: Specialist paramedics in the United Kingdom are able to undertake additional training and education in the assessment and treatment of minor illness and injuries. The provision of medication often forms a part of specialist paramedic care, but there is currently no research into the perceived usefulness or impact of the use of patient group directions or on their preparedness to undertake paramedic independent and supplementary prescribing. The aim of this study was to (a) investigate the ways in which medicines are currently supplied by specialist paramedics and (b) establish views on the introduction of paramedic independent and supplementary prescribing, including practitioner preparedness and potential impact on practice.

Methods: An online questionnaire was sent to 268 specialist paramedics employed by two NHS ambulance Trusts in England who jointly employed 54% of the national population (n = 495) of specialist paramedics. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics and a framework analysis approach.

Results: Patient group directions were reported to be used regularly and infections, pain and exacerbations of respiratory conditions were the most frequently treated conditions by specialist paramedics.

Although just over half of participants reported that patient group directions did not restrict their ability to supply medication to patients, a significant minority found them too restrictive. Examples of restrictions included contradictions to local antimicrobial guidance and being unable to supply sufficiently strong analgesia.

The majority of participants (66/78, 84.6%) felt confident to undertake paramedic independent and supplementary prescribing and that it would enhance both their scope of practice (70/72, 97.2%) and patient care (67/72, 93.0%). However, participants had concerns regarding organisational readiness for paramedic independent and supplementary prescribing (50/72, 69.4%), including provision of paramedic access to patient records (65/72, 90.2%) and obtaining sufficient clinical support (39/72, 54.1%).

Conclusions: Patient group directions do enable specialist paramedics to supply medication to patients in order to treat a range of conditions, but at times the paramedics felt that the patient group directions restricted autonomous practice. The majority of participants felt confident to undertake paramedic independent and supplementary prescribing and anticipated that it would enhance patient care.
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Keywords: advanced paramedic; independent prescribing; paramedic; patient group directions; specialist paramedic

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust 2: University of Southampton

Publication date: December 1, 2018

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