Ambulance care assistants (ACAs) transfer non-emergency patients to and from health or social care settings, including hospitals, for pre-arranged appointments. They are sometimes known as Patient Transport Service (PTS) drivers.
Your duties as an ACA would include:
The people you would transport may be in very poor health. An important part of your work would be to show kindness and respect to often worried patients and their relatives, who may include:
- Older people
- Individuals who are physically disabled
- People with mental health problems
In some ambulance services, you could be trained to work in a high dependency team, transporting patients with specific clinical needs on a regular basis.
During a shift you would keep in contact with support staff at the control room (by radio or telephone) who would give you clinical advice if an emergency took place.
You would usually work 37.5 hours a week, which may include some weekends, evenings and bank holidays. Part-time posts are also available.
This work is quite physically demanding and you would spend a lot of time on the road covering a particular geographical area. Occasionally you may deal with distressing situations or circumstances with seriously ill patients.
You would wear a uniform and, at times, additional protective clothing such as a bright reflective coat and boots. You may work alone or in a two-person team, in an adapted ambulance or a standard car.
ACAs can earn between £13,600 and £16,750 a year.
With experience this can rise to around £18,500.
Extra allowances (known as salary uplifts) may be paid to workers in certain geographical areas and to those expected to work unsocial hours.
You will find most job opportunities within the NHS, although you may be able to train and work in the private ambulance sector and with the armed forces.
Each regional ambulance service can set its own entry criteria (and induction training programme), so it is important to check the details with the ambulance service you wish to join. In general, to work as an ambulance care assistant, you will need:
Excellent driving skills with between one and two years' driving experience.
A full manual driving licence – if you passed your test after summer 1996, you may need an extra driving qualification (some ambulance services may support you through this extra test, but this is not standard practice across the UK)
A good understanding of the Highway Code.
The ability to read maps and knowledge of the area you will cover.
Health clearance (as your work could include lifting and carrying).
You will also need basic maths and English skills. Some employers may prefer you to have around four GCSE's (A-C) including English, maths and a science, plus a current first aid certificate. Check with your local ambulance service because alternative qualifications or experience in a direct care-related role may also be accepted.
You can find links to local ambulance services on the NHS Choices website.
As a trainee ACA, you will receive between two and four weeks' training in areas such as:
Advanced (safe) driving skills.
Moving and handling techniques.
First aid – including basic emergency accident management
(in some services) administering oxygen therapy
You will be tested throughout your training and you will take written and practical examinations.
If you reach the standard set by the service, you will be attached to an ambulance station where you will work under the guidance of a trained mentor for a probationary period. After this time, you will be allowed to work unsupervised.
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An ambulance care assistant needs:
Experience as an ACA has been the traditional route to other jobs in the service, however, there is no guaranteed progression route. You will need to apply for vacancies alongside external candidates, but your experience is likely to give you an advantage when going for Emergency Care Assistant or Student Paramedic posts.
You could also move into other departments within the ambulance service, such as personnel, training, health and safety, and operations management.
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