The COVID-19 ambulance response assessment (CARA) study: a national survey of ambulance service healthcare professionals’ preparedness and response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Jack William Barrett, Kate Bennett Eastley, Anthony Herbland, Peter Owen, Salman Naeem, Craig Mortimer, James King, Theresa Foster, Nigel Rees, Andy Rosser, Sarah Black, Fiona Bell, Rachael Fothergill, Adam Mellett-Smith, Michelle Jackson, Graham McClelland, Paul Gowens, Robert Spaight, Sandra Igbodo, Martina BrownJulia Williams*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background: The COVID-19 pandemic placed significant demand on the NHS, including ambulance services, but it is unclear how this affected ambulance service staff and paramedics in other clinical settings (e.g. urgent and primary care, armed services, prisons). This study aimed to measure the self-perceived preparedness and impact of the first wave of the pandemic on paramedics’ psychological stress and perceived ability to deliver care.

Methods: Ambulance clinicians and paramedics working in other healthcare settings were invited to participate in a three-phase sequential online survey during the acceleration (April 2020), peak (May 2020) and deceleration (September/October 2020) phases of the first wave of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom. Recruitment used social media, Trust internal bulletins and the College of Paramedics’ communication channels, employing a convenience sampling strategy. Data were collected using purposively developed open- and closed-ended questions and the validated general health questionnaire-12 (GHQ-12). Data were analysed using multi-level linear and logistic regression models.

Results: Phase 1 recruited 3717 participants, reducing to 2709 (73%) by phase 2 and 2159 (58%) by phase 3. Participants were mostly male (58%, n = 2148) and registered paramedics (n = 1992, 54%). Mean (standard deviation) GHQ-12 scores were 16.5 (5.2) during phase 1, reducing to 15.2 (6.7) by phase 3. A total of 84% of participants (n = 3112) had a GHQ-12 score ≥ 12 during the first phase, indicating psychological distress. Participants that had higher GHQ-12 scores were feeling unprepared for the pandemic, and reported a lack of confidence in using personal protective equipment and managing cardiac arrests in confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients.

Conclusions: Most participants reported psychological distress, the reasons for which are multi-factorial. Ambulance managers need to be aware of the risks to staff mental health and take action to mitigate these, to support staff in the delivery of unscheduled, emergency and urgent care under these additional pressures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-20
Number of pages11
JournalBritish Paramedic Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2024

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