The College of Paramedics is the recognised professional body for all paramedics in the UK, whose role is to promote and develop the paramedic profession. The College of Paramedics was established in 2001, is a membership organisation with nearly 20,000 members and also, since 2015 is a Charity registered with the Charities Commission. Membership is open to all UK paramedics registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), student paramedics who are studying for a qualification leading to eligibility to apply for registration with the HCPC and those who have an interest in the paramedic profession and healthcare delivery.
The College represents its members in all matters affecting their clinical practice, supporting them to achieve the highest possible standards of patient care through a broad membership of a variety of national stakeholder working groups, advisory committees and ongoing research projects. The College of Paramedics has its own journal, the British Paramedic Journal, available online to its members.
The College of Paramedics provides professional support services to paramedics including legal representation and peer support for those under investigation by the regulator. The College of Paramedics further represents the interests of paramedics and ambulance clinicians by providing a contact point for the media, publishing social media guidance, and by responding to consultation documents and requests for advice from government, and other professional and registrant bodies.
How does your organisation contribute to preventing suicide and supporting those affected by it?
The College of Paramedics works closely with The Ambulance Staff Charity (TASC) to promote their many support services which includes mental health support and advice, and also bereavement support services, and debt advice. Due to TASC’s ability to support those who are experiencing difficulties with their mental health we signpost enquiries from our members who are in need of support and counselling services to the TASC helplines.
The College of Paramedics provide a legal representation service to its paramedic members who have been notified that a Fitness to Practice complaint has been raised against them with the HCPC. We are acutely aware that undergoing an investigation by the Regulator can be a very difficult, distressing and uncertain period of time and so to compliment this service, we have now established a Peer Support Programme. This programme offers an additional service of confidential one to one peer support to these paramedics. This Peer Support Programme is a voluntary service, based upon current available best practice guidelines and published research; ensuring every stage is evidence-based and is designed to offer psychosocial support throughout this very challenging time.
Collaboration is key area of importance to us in order to combine and coordinate our efforts and resources. We work with the major employers of paramedics on both highlighting the importance of staff wellbeing and improving the care given to patient’s experiencing mental health difficulties. One specific piece of work is aimed at reducing the numbers of self-referrals by paramedics to the HCPC for fitness to practice concerns.
Communication and promotion is another key area of our focus, we regularly use multi-platform communication with our members and the paramedic profession on key messages, such as mental health awareness, it’s good to talk, it’s ok not to be ok, suicide prevention, time to talk and reducing stigma. Reducing the stigma associated with mental health was a particular aim of our regular mental health Blog series. This series featured frontline paramedics and those in more senior leadership positions talking about their lived experiences. We also promote key Mental Health dates such as World Mental Health Day, Mental Health Awareness Week, Time to Talk Day, World Suicide Prevention Day, on all our social media platforms and website.
What are your current priorities?
The mental health and wellbeing of paramedics is one of the five key strategic aims in the College of Paramedics 2019/24 Strategy. The College of Paramedics Board of Trustees has placed mental health and wellbeing as a standing and priority item on every Board agenda, ensuring that mental health awareness and the associated messages are front and centre in all College discussions, events and communications.
The College of Paramedics will continue to support the work of our Paramedic Mental Health and Wellbeing Steering Group and its associated workstreams. These include the delivery of educational conferences, representation on national working groups developing guidelines and innovative practice and ensuring the voice of the many paramedics that are experiencing difficulties with their mental health due to their career choice is heard loud and clear in everything the College of Paramedics engages in.
What challenges are you currently facing?
Despite huge growth in recent years the College of Paramedics is still a relatively small and young organisation and so building capacity appropriately and sustainably in order to achieve our aims is an ongoing challenge.
The NHS Ambulance Services are where the largest number of paramedics are employed and where most of the paramedics who have difficulties with their mental health work. Influencing the cultures, conditions and support services provided by these employing organisations is a further challenge.