Safety of paramedics with extended skills

Acad Emerg Med. 2008 Jul;15(7):607-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2008.00156.x.


Background: The role of paramedics with extended skills is evolving, enabling them to assess and treat patients in the community. A United Kingdom service led by extended-role paramedic practitioners (PPs) is aimed at managing minor acute illness and injury among older people in the home when appropriate, avoiding unnecessary transfer to the emergency department (ED).

Objectives: The objectives were to evaluate the safety of clinical decisions made by PPs operating within the new service.

Methods: As part of a cluster-randomized controlled trial, patients aged > 60 years contacting the emergency medical services (EMS) with a minor injury or illness were included in the study. The safety of the new PP intervention was compared with standard practice of EMS transfer and ED treatment. Outcomes included unplanned ED attendance within 7 days of the index episode. Clinical records were rated independently by two senior ED clinicians to identify related episodes, avoidable subsequent episodes, and suboptimal care.

Results: Of the 2,025 patients included in this analysis, 219 (10.9%) went on to have an unplanned ED attendance within 7 days. Of these, 162 (74.0%) re-presented with a condition related to their index episode. The independent raters agreed on suboptimal care 83.4% of the time. There were 16 agreed upon episodes related to suboptimal care (0.80%). No significant differences were found between intervention and control groups in relation to re-presentation at hospital within 7 days for a related condition or rates of assessed suboptimal care.

Conclusions: This study suggests that appropriately trained paramedics with extended skills treating older people with minor acute conditions in the community are as safe as standard EMS transfer and treatment within the ED.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Allied Health Personnel / standards*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Decision Making
  • Delivery of Health Care / standards
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Services for the Aged / standards*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Safety*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United Kingdom