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Last Updated: Monday, 26 February 2007, 21:15 GMT
New medics to ease A&E pressure
It is hope ECPs will reduce the workload on A&E departments
Emergency care practitioners (ECP) who respond to 999 calls that do not require hospital treatment have started work in Wiltshire.

ECPs are paramedics who have received extra training and they are able to treat problems and prescribe medicine if necessary.

It is thought many people who call an ambulance for non life-threatening conditions can be treated this way.

By using ECPs it is hoped to reduce the workload on hospital A&E departments.

'Skills developed'

Dominic Morgan, from the Great Western Ambulance Union, said trained paramedics were being taken and their skills developed.

"The idea is not to lose the paramedic posts - the idea is to replace the paramedic posts in the long term.

"In the short term there will be an effect on resources - the challenge is to make it work.

"We are looking to recruit more paramedics to replace those who become ECPs," he said.

Great Western Ambulance Service said ECPs are already easing the pressure on the 999 system.

It is believed one in five people who call 999 are never taken to hospital. Of the four who are, two could have been treated at home by ECPs.

This could mean an end to ambulances queuing outside Accident and Emergency units and free-up beds inside the hospital.

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