Why are we discussing regulation

The New Zealand Government regulates groups of health workers where it thinks the public needs protection. Regulation is a way of protecting the public from the risks of health professionals by making sure they are competent to practice.

Ambulance officers are required to make clinical assessments, often quickly, and often in the critical period after an accident or acute medical event. Some also have to perform invasive procedures and administer medications. Others make key decisions as to whether it’s safe for a patient to stay in their own home. If they are not fully competent in their work there is the potential to cause harm to the patient.

In New Zealand there are four ambulance service providers, the New Zealand Defence Force, and a number of small private operators who offer non emergency ambulance services. At the moment the qualifications and standards of clinical personnel can differ from one service provider to another as there is no formal requirement for national consistency across the sector. While the four emergency ambulance service providers and the New Zealand Defence Force have been working closely towards achieving consistency, regulation would mean that nationally consistent qualifications and standards would be required under the HPCA Act and they would be overseen by a Responsible Authority which is independent of all other groups in the sector.

There are currently no restrictions to prevent anybody setting up an ambulance service and advertising it as an emergency service with trained paramedics, even if they may not practice at the same standard as those working for current providers. And, there are no formal qualifications or competency requirements and no monitoring of standards across the whole sector.