THE challenges faced by paramedics during the coronavirus crisis will be the subject of a study at the University of Stirling.

The study, one of a number of research projects starting up at the university that are funded by the Scottish Government’s Rapid Research in Covid-19 programme, will also consider how decisions taken by ambulance crews impact on patients.

This is one of two Stirling-led projects on the Scottish Ambulance Service, with the other considering the effect of psychiatric emergencies during the pandemic.

Dr David Fitzpatrick from the university will be leading colleagues to collect data, working with the ambulance service, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde as well as Public Health Scotland.

The lead investigator and senior lecturer said: “Paramedics across Scotland – and the wider world – face unprecedented challenges in identifying and appropriately managing patients with Covid-19.

“Due to the nature of the pandemic, little is known about these patients or how the decisions that paramedics make affect their outcomes.

“We will investigate how Covid-19 patients present to paramedics, the clinical interventions delivered and what happens to patients after the ambulance call out – for example, are they transported to the emergency department or referred to other services.

“Importantly, we will also be looking at patient outcomes.”

The team will rapidly inform ambulance management of their findings to inform future clinical guidance and policy.

Dr Fitzpatrick added: “We hope that our study will have a real and rapid benefit for those individuals presenting with Covid-19 symptoms.”

Dr Jim Ward, medical director at the Scottish Ambulance Service, said: “The pandemic has introduced a unique set of circumstances and new challenges and we have sought to adapt as quickly and effectively as possible to ensure patient safety.

“We are delighted to be working with the University of Stirling on this study and look forward to co-operating with this in-depth analysis.”

Meanwhile, a research team led by Dr Josie Evans will look at whether mental health emergency related callouts have increased during the pandemic.

Before the outbreak of the virus, it was estimated ambulance crews attended mental health emergencies in 10 per cent of callouts.

Dr Evans will also work with Dr Fitzpatrick as well as Dr Edward Duncan and Dr Catherine Best to see if the situation has been different during the lockdown.

The project lead said: “This study is needed to help build a clearer picture of the mental health implications of the pandemic and the knock-on effect on other NHS services.

“Only with this knowledge can we be sufficiently prepared for any similar situation in the future.”