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Warning over workload surge from statins ruling

GPs are warning that patient safety could be jeopardised by Government plans for paramedics to treat more people outside of hospitals.

Under the proposals for reform of the ambulance service unveiled this week, paramedics could carry out home vists previously done by GPs.

They would receive two years' training in diagnosis, treatment and possibly prescribing before taking on the role of emergency care practitioner.

But GPs said this was not enough to enable them to deal safely with non-life threatening problems.

Dr Andy Stewart, a member of Cornwall LMC, said the plans were a 'quick fix for the Government' to help ease problems with out-of-hours services and A&E.

He added: 'If a paramedic can learn in two years what it takes a GP eight or nine years to learn that's a very good breakthrough.'

Dr Prasad Rao, vice-chair of the National Association of GP Co-Operatives, said the move was the 'sort of thing that happens in Third World countries'.

He said: 'GPs go through much more rigorous training ­ even after five years we still make mistakes. It must be about patient safety.'

Announcing the proposals, Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said only one 999 call in 10 was for a life-threatening condition. Patients would be treated 'cheaper and faster', she added.

She said: 'If your child has fallen off his bike you want him checked over but the last thing you want is to take him to A&E.

'The ambulance service can take on a new role by taking the hospital to you.'

Dr Harry Yoxall, secretary of Somerset LMC, said a pilot of a similar scheme in his area had been successful but had been stopped because of lack of funding.

He said: 'The benefits were threefold. Patients arrived at hospital earlier and you didn't have doctors rushing out of a fully-booked surgery to see people, so they were less stressed. The ambulance service also had more resources and could operate flexibly.'

By Rob Finch

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