London Ambulance Service is setting up its own training “academy” in a bid to attract more home-grown talent to become paramedics.
The initiative comes as the LAS announced a third visit to Australia to recruit 200 foreign staff – amid plans to offer London medics the chance of a career break Down Under.
The under-pressure service sees foreign paramedics as a key way of quickly plugging its 400 front-line vacancies. Staff shortages mean it continues to miss NHS response-time targets to 999 calls.
Last month it reached 66.5 per cent of the most serious emergencies within eight minutes – the target is 75 per cent.
It normally takes three years for universities to train paramedics but the LAS training school aims to do it in two. Courses will be run at existing LAS education centres.
The academy – an ambulance alternative to the Met police college in Hendon – is due to enrol its first 50 students in January. Candidates – either LAS junior emergency crew or people new to the service – will be paid a salary as they train “on the job” as they work up to fully qualified paramedic status.
Recruitment staff will spend two weeks in Sydney and Melbourne in September seeking to lure newly-qualified Australian and New Zealand paramedics to the capital.
Previous trips last September and in March saw about 400 come to London. They are offered salaries starting at £30,563 and rising to £39,452. Paramedics have also been recruited from the US, Poland and Germany.
The ability of the foreign recruits is said to be “variable”. Some are quickly available for front-line duties while others need to be “Londonised” to improve their driving skills and familiarise them with the Tube and other likely medical challenges.
It can also be revealed that London staff could be heading in the opposite direction in the wake of the departure of LAS operations director Jason Killens, who is becoming chief executive of South Australia Ambulance Service.
Precise details are still to be worked out. But LAS chief executive Dr Fionna Moore said: “Hopefully when Jason is in post, we will look to do thinks like exchanging staff.”
LAS chairman Richard Hunt said: “Having ‘embedded’ someone in Australia, we would like to take advantage of it.”