Emergency Care Practitioner

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An Emergency Care Practitioner (ECP) generally come from a background in paramedicine and most have additional academic qualifications, usually at university, with enhanced skills in medical assessment and extra clinical skills over and above those of a standard paramedic, qualified nurse or other ambulance crew such as technicians. It has been recommended by the College of Paramedics that ECPs be trained to PgDip or MSc level, although not all are.[1] Evidence of the best way to target Emergency Care Practitioners is limited with utilisation of traditional Ambulance dispatch codes not always being shown to be most effective[2] and referrals from GPs also potentially failing to deliver management of demand that would be appropriate for this different level of practitioner.[3] Evidence however clearly demonstrates that in discreet groups of patients the use of these extended role staff responding to emergency calls can reduce admissions and thus improve patient outcomes as well as delivering a clear cost saving to the NHS.[4]


ECPs may be employed in a range of areas of care such as emergency medical services, primary care centres, hospitals, prisons, walk-in centres, or out-of-hours medical centres.[5][6] The majority of ECPs work autonomously.[citation needed] Many are employed by Primary Care Trusts or Ambulance Services. The work of the ECP appears to be recognized as a valuable asset in many care arenas with the current trend of employment within primary care practices becoming more prevalent.

Education and training[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]

ECPs in the United Kingdom are educated to different levels. In some areas a BSc or Post Graduate Certificate (PgC) makes one an ECP while in other areas an MSc may be needed.

A number of British universities are developing qualifications which can allow a paramedic or nurse to gain employment as an ECP.

University of Hertfordshire:

PgC Patient Assessment and Management (Primary Care or Critical Care Pathways available)
MSc Paramedic Science - by research
MPhil Paramedic Science - by research
PhD Paramedic Science - by research
DHRes Doctorate in Health research

South Africa[edit]

ECPs in South Africa are educated from the level of BTech EMC ( Bachelor of Technology in Emergency Medical Care)- a 3 year full time with an additional 1-2 year part time study or BHSc EMC (Bachelor of Health Science in Emergency Medical Care) - a four-year full time professional degree up to the level of PhD EMC by thesis. The only four institutions offering the qualification are:

  • Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth
  • Durban University of Technology, Durban
  • Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town
  • University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg


United Kingdom[edit]

Additional skills which UK ECPs may perform include:[7]

  • Administration of certain medications under patient group directions (PGDs) such as antibiotics
  • Suturing, Steri-Strips (adhesive skin closure strips), and tissue adhesive wound closure (gluing of wounds)[8][9]
  • Minor surgical procedures in the field (such as removal of skin flaps)
  • Urinary catheterization (placing a Foley catheter.)
  • System-based assessment
  • Otoscopy, ophthalmoscopy, urinalysis
  • Neurological assessment (such as tendon reflexes, cranial nerve assessment (CNI-CNXII), MMSE)
  • Ordering X-rays and requesting further investigations
  • Full UK advanced adult and paediatric life support skills
  • Full diagnostics assessment
  • Thrombolysis
  • On-scene discharge

South Africa[edit]

ECP skills in South Africa include:

  • Full South African, adult and paediatric, advanced life support skills
  • Full diagnostics assessment (Otoscopy, ophthalmoscopy, urinalysis, system based assessments)
  • Thrombolysis, fibrinolysis
  • Rapid Sequence Intubation (RSI)
  • On-scene discharge
  • Administration of emergency medications
  • Ordering X-rays and requesting further investigations
  • Specialized intensive care unit transport of adults and paediatrics

(Full scope as per HPCSA)

Emerging roles and opportunities[edit]

Since around 2008, the role of the ECP has become more popular around the world as the demonstrable benefits of the role become apparent.

As a result, the role has now expanded to parts of Canada, New Zealand and Australia. All of these are largely based on the UK model.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]