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Emergency care assistant

Emergency care assistants (ECA) drive ambulances under emergency conditions and support paramedics.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £16,750 to £22,500 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37.5 per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 3 or 4 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including English, maths and a science subject
  • a full UK, manual driving licence
  • excellent driving skills and current knowledge of the highway code
  • good fitness levels and good eyesight (prescription glasses are acceptable)

Each regional ambulance service sets its own entry requirements and training, so check the details with the ambulance service you wish to join.

Some ambulance services may also want you to have:

  • experience of working in a patient care setting, ideally in the NHS
  • a current first aid certificate
You could get into this job through an apprenticeship.

You’ll need clearance from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

Health Careers has more information about how to become an emergency care assistant.

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • emotional resilience and physical stamina
  • communication skills
  • excellent listening skills and powers of observation
  • the ability to remain calm under pressure

3. What you'll do

Your day-to-day duties could include:

  • using advanced driving skills to respond to medical emergencies
  • transferring patients to and from ambulances, using suitable equipment and manual handling skills
  • helping ambulance paramedics deal with urgent hospital admissions
  • completing handover reports and recording all patient information
  • making sure your vehicle is roadworthy, properly kitted out and cleaned after every call

When responding to an emergency, you'll have little warning of the exact circumstances.

For example, you might:

  • carry out basic scene safety checks by assessing the risk to yourself and others
  • contact the emergency control centre to request extra support
  • carry out basic diagnostic procedures under the direct supervision of a paramedic
  • support the delivery of first aid and minor emergency treatments
  • monitor and treat patients until they are transferred to hospital
You'll also work closely with emergency services, relevant authorities and health and social care professionals.

4. Salary

Starter: £16,750

Experienced: £19,750

Highly Experienced: £22,500

Your salary could increase with extra allowances for out of hours, shift and overtime working.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You'll usually work 37.5 hours a week. Ambulance services operate 365 days a year, so you'll be working shifts, including evenings, weekends and bank holidays.

You'll be based at a local ambulance station, or at a large hospital as part of a team.

Your work may involve heavy lifting when transferring patients.

You'll wear a uniform, which includes protective clothing like a bright jacket, safety boots and, in some services, a stab-proof vest.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could apply for a trainee technician job or a student paramedic post. You could then take an approved paramedic science degree, leading to registration as a paramedic. 

You could also become a team leader or supervisor with responsibility for a team of ECAs, or move into a human resources or training role.

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Last updated: 18 August 2017