Australian paramedics help to fill shortages in London

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Australian paramedics help to fill shortages in London

More than a thousand soldiers will be on standby to drive ambulances on Thursday during a walkout by NHS workers. 

The strike comes as the London Ambulance Service and other NHS ambulance trusts are try to cope with shortages by recruiting from overseas. 175 paramedics from down under have flown over 10,000 miles to join the London Ambulance Service and will begin their first shifts as their family and friends celebrate Australia Day.

Graduate paramedic Mitchell Hand said: "My thinking was 'why not?' I had opportunities at home in Sydney, but I chose not to take them. London Ambulance Service is one of the busiest Ambulance services in the world, so there's no better place to start."

The Service’s Director of Operations Jason Killens said: "We've asked the universities that feed London with paramedics to double the numbers and we've also taken on another university. The problem is that it takes three years to qualify as a paramedic and in that time we're going to be recruiting from overseas to fill the vacancies that we have."

New recruit Simone McIlgorm admitted the first thing she did when she got to London was buy warmer clothes. "Of course the weather is a lot different," said Simone. "But I'm enjoying putting on a coat, putting on a beanie and walking through the cold, because to me it's romanticised" she added. 

The LAS chose Australia as the skills and training there closely match the UK. The Australian paramedics completed a three-week conversion course to learn about the different equipment, drugs and guidelines here.

"We've been on the London Underground, crawling under trains" said Mitchell.

"I'm excited about all the large events like the London Marathon and the Notting Hill Carnival" added Simone. 

Members of the London Ambulance Service will be returning to Australia for another round of recruiting in March.

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