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Paramedics to resume GP home visits under new rota system

Exclusive An ambulance service has announced plans to put a rota in place allowing paramedics to take on GP home visits.

The pilot scheme in Sussex will see paramedics switch every eight weeks between doing home visits in general practice and answering 999 calls on the road and over the phone.

The ambulance service said the rota will ‘prove more sustainable’, after it stopped subcontracting paramedics to practices in March 2017 because of demand issues, leaving GPs to carry out the home visits themselves.

CCG leaders said the scheme will allow patients to recieve ‘a more rapid home visiting response than general practice currently has the capacity to provide’.

NHS Crawley CCG and NHS Horsham and Mid Sussex CCG have commissioned SECAmb to provide home visits on behalf of GPs from June 2018.

The home visits will be provided by paramedic practitioners, rotating through primary care, responding to 999 calls out on the road and working in SECAmb’s emergency operations centre in Crawley – spending eight weeks with each service.

Under the new pilot, the paramedics will remain employees of SECAmb, replacing the previous system, which saw them subcontracted to GP practices just for home visits – taking them away from answering 999 calls. 

SECAmb was forced to stop providing paramedics to practices after receiving an ‘inadequate’ CQC rating for not answering 999 calls within the five-second target.

A spokesperson for SECAmb said the 18-month pilot aims to ‘not benefit one part of the system at the expense of another’.

They added: ‘We hope this wider system approach will prove more sustainable.’

Dr John Allingham, medical director of Kent LMC, which is also served by SECAmb, told Pulse: ‘The home visiting service jobs offer attractive terms and conditions for paramedics and so taking the best staff from SECAmb is potentially destabilising them.’

He added that under the previous arrangement the paramedic practioners faced a ‘loss of emergency 999-type skills if they are off the road’ – a problem which will be rectified under the new scheme. 

He previously told Pulse that having a paramedic home visiting service was ‘very good at avoiding admissions’, but without it GPs are left with ‘more after evening surgery visits and going home late’.

The CCGs said they expect the pilot scheme to have a positive impact on clinical outcomes and effectiveness in NHS Crawley and Horsham and NHS Mid Sussex CCGs.

Geraldine Hoban, managing director for the CCGs, said: ‘We are very excited about the paramedic practitioner rotational pilot as it will offer some of our most frail patients a more rapid home visiting response than general practice currently has the capacity to provide.

‘We anticipate that will enable more patients to have their urgent care needs met in or closer to home.

‘The pilot also represents the strategic approach we are taking in this area to exploring creative workforce solutions.’