The first group of Australian paramedics recruited to ease dire staff shortages in London yesterday began working on the frontline of the NHS.
Normally, January 26 would see them having a beach party to mark Australia Day, their annual national celebration. Instead some new recruits found themselves in Deptford, giving emergency care to the capital’s sick and needy.
Simone McIlgorm, 25, from Sydney, said: “On Australia Day I would be down on the beach, having a few drinks and celebrating what it is like to be an Australian.
“I saw the advertisement on Facebook. My sister has been to the UK before. She said: ‘Go for it. Achieve your dreams.’ There is no future ambition to go home.”
See here for a London Live film featuring some of the new recruits:
The graduate trainee, in her first job since qualifying with a degree in clinical practice, said it had been a shock to arrive in London on December 29. “The first thing I did was go shopping for a proper coat,” she said.
The first group of recruits – seven Australians and three New Zealanders – completed a three-week London Ambulance Service conversion course that included learning how to cope with a Tube disaster. Dozens more will start over the coming weeks. LAS recruiters will return to Australia in March to interview a further 280 candidates.
Recruits are offered a £30,295 salary, increasing annually to £39,000, the cost of their flight and “reasonable” relocation costs. Help is provided to find private accommodation.
“I’m so happy to be here,” Ms McIlgorm said. “When I was hearing that London was recruiting paramedics, I really wanted this opportunity. I would like to get the best experience I possibly can, improving my clinical skills and developing myself as a practitioner – and having the best time as a young person.”
Mitchell Hand, 22, from Sydney, who has just graduated with a three-year bachelor of clinical practice university degree, said: “I had the opportunity to work in Australia but the opportunities here are greater – on fast-response units, motorbikes, bikes, the hazard area team. I thought: ‘What better place to start my career?’
“What gets me about this city is the architecture. You can walk into a pub that was built in the mid 1700s, and realise this is older than Australia.”
He added: “You are made to feel so welcome. I left my entire family behind. The ambulance service is now my family.”
Mathew Griffin, 28, from Auckland, New Zealand, said he was aware of the LAS’s staff shortage but said this was not his reason for joining. A former medic with the Royal New Zealand Air Force, he will be a “resilience” paramedic, on standby for mass casualty incidents, and will work day-to-day in a fast-response car.
He had been travelling in Europe when he decided to apply for a job. “I think there are a few different reasons why we are all here,” he said. “I’m here to do a job that I love for a service that looks great.”
Jason Killens, LAS director of operations, said: “I’m really pleased with the quality of the recruits we have got from overseas.
“We have got 175 starting out of this first cohort. Given the context we are working in at the moment, getting the first lot out on the streets this week is great for us.”