This interview is part of the hub's 'Frontline insights during the pandemic' series where Martin Hogan interviews healthcare professionals from various specialties to capture their experience and insights during the coronavirus pandemic. Here Martin interviews an advanced specialist paramedic working in central London with four years' experience of working on the frontline.
Questions & Answers
Martin: What has your experience been like around patient/staff safety during the pandemic?
Paramedic: I feel during the pandemic patient safety has remained quite stringent with myself, immediate colleagues and my service as a whole. I have heard very few anecdotal incidents where patient safety has been compromised, despite quite a large threshold to non conveyance (patients left at home, rather than taken to hospital in the ambulance). I have never felt like an appropriate referral process or transport decision couldn’t be made. Information was transcended clearly, although this was sometimes hard to follow and rapidly changing.
Martin: What resources have been easily available to you from your department/trust to maintain safety?
Paramedic: The personal resources made available to me have included personal protective equipment (PPE) as recommended by Public Health England. Initially there was a logistical delay in getting this to staff in a timely manner but within one week I had the equipment I needed. However, the bigger question I feel was whether the PPE was appropriate for frontline workers. A large number of my colleagues developed symptoms readily and rapidly. There is no doubt these incidents were acquired while the recommended PPE was in use. I feel higher levels of PPE should have been used for all patient contact. With healthcare professionals seeing multiple patients a day, how much were we involved in the spread of the virus?
Martin: What have been some of the positives/negatives you have taken away?
Paramedic: The negatives for me were the initial working environment in the pandemic and the rapid spread of the virus, and dealing with high acuity symptomatic patients and death. The speed for extra support seemed to be prolonged. Positives for me were the way people have treated the health system during the pandemic, patients didn't use the NHS like they did before allowing others who needed it more to use it, and they respected the delays.
Martin: What skills do you have to better enable patient safety and how did you acquire these?
Paramedic: I feel much more ready to act on poor patient safety with an appropriate response or to speak up to say how patient safety could be made better. With confidence and experience I feel most clinicians are able to question, or, in some circumstances, stop another persons actions despite them having a higher grade or more experience. I also think innate feeling rather than skill happens in healthcare and patient safety everyday. Gut feeling on the back of high exposure and working with integrity has saved me and sometimes a patient on many occasions.
Reflections and final thoughts from Martin...
Although in this trust the PPE was quickly provided, the interviewee, like many frontline staff, questions whether the PPE was adequate in preventing the spread of the virus. I would be interested in hearing other people's thoughts on this.
It's good to hear that staff in this trust feel confident to speak up and question actions if they feel that patient safety is being compromised. Unfortunately this is not always the case in all trusts for fear of repercussions.
Would you like to feature in one of our interviews? We'd love to hear from other frontline contributors.