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South Western Ambulance Paramedics begin new uni course to help patients in hazardous environments

Paramedics at South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) are beginning a brand new university course to help them to manage patients in hazardous environments.

SWASFT has been working with Plymouth University to create the Masters degree in Hazardous Area Response Paramedicine. This month, 16 paramedics will be the first to take up their places on the postgraduate course.

The Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) is a specialist unit that provides paramedic care in hazardous environments where previously clinicians would not be able to enter.

The types of situations that a HART Paramedic can be expected to operate in include: firearms, chemical, water, confined spaces, at height, mud and unstable structures such as collapsed buildings.

Bianca Thomas-Mourne, HART Paramedic, said: "This is a really exciting opportunity for the HART speciality to acquire the academic accreditation that it deserves and to align with it's urgent and critical care counterparts in the ambulance service."

Each HART paramedic is already highly trained, having completed their basic HART training, which can take up to six months of intense training. They are then equipped with personal protective equipment relevant to the disciplines which can include items such as a dry suits, respirators, ballistic vests and ground kit.

The role and scope of practice for a HART Paramedic has expanded hugely since the role was created in response to the London bombings in 2005, with additional disciplines and clinical skills growing over time. Since 2016, SWAST HART has acquired additional clinical skills and began delivering enhanced care skills. This includes ketamine administration, finger thoracostomies and surgical airways. Furthermore, HART also provide cardiac arrest support for frontline paramedics across the South West, offering extra staff, equipment and skills for managing a cardiac arrest.

This will be the first level 7 bespoke further education course for HART in the country, which will provide the academic foundations for the skills and knowledge that HART paramedics possess, thus aligning HART with other specialist paramedics within the Trust.

Staff undertaking this course will also provide the HART teams with research opportunities through their university work. This will enable South Western Ambulance Service to begin a programme of research in relation to the work of the HART teams – something that has not yet been embarked upon.

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