We use cookies to track user visits on this website but all data collected is anonymous and is used only for the purpose of improving the site. By browsing our site you agree to our use of cookies. You will only see this message once.

Find out more
Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust Header Banner

Cathryn James

Clinical Pathways Advisor and Advanced Paramedic

Cathryn James Clinical Pathways Advisor and Advanced Paramedic

Cathryn James has three ambulance roles: Emergency Care Practitioner (ECP); developing new clinical pathways; and a secondment to the Association of Ambulance Service Chief Executives as a clinical support advisor.

“They’re all interlinked”, she explains. “My ECP work helps keeps my clinical skills up to date and I mentor the new urgent care practitioners (UCPs) who we have recently recruited. I can then use this knowledge and experience to inform my work on clinical pathways for Yorkshire Ambulance Service and my national work.”

Clinical pathways can be used by ambulance clinicians instead of taking a patient to the hospital emergency department. It means linking with local care providers so patients can stay at home and receive follow-up care appropriate for their condition.

Pathways currently in place include falls, diabetes, end-of-life and mental health.

All ambulance services regularly use pathways now and ‘keeping care close to home’ is high on everyone’s agenda. But this wasn’t the case twenty years ago where the hospital emergency department was almost always the patient’s destination.

Cathryn was one of the first people to work on developing pathways following some work looking at demand in Bradford. “I told a senior nursing colleague about the number of falls we attended and she nearly fell of her chair herself!” she says.

Working in partnership with other local clinicians Cathryn helped develop pathways which meant that patients suffering falls or hypoglycaemic episodes (hypos) could receive follow up care at home. From this start in West Yorkshire, she then rolled this out across the whole of Yorkshire. “I guess we were ahead of the game,” she says. “It all came about from good, local clinician-to-clinician relationships. We just did what was clinically right for patients and it developed from there.”

Cathryn joined West Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service (WYMAS) in 1981 as a cadet. The cadet scheme instilled caring skills in us, as well as pride in our service, pride in our equipment and respect for our colleagues. When the paramedic role was introduced in the mid-eighties she was the first woman in West Yorkshire to qualify.

“It was a much more physical job in those days,” explains Cathryn. “There were no automatic tail-lifts on the vehicles – there was much more lifting. Gradually more women joined the service, but we often heard comments about it being a ‘man’s job’

“I think women bring a lot to the service. Yes the job can be physical, but people skills are at its heart.

“You can think about ambulance work as splitting broadly into: ‘big sick’ - like trauma, or cardiac arrest; and ‘little sick’; like a frail old person having a dizzy spell. Actually, for paramedics, lots of the advanced skills are associated with ‘little sick’, or what we now call urgent care: being able to assess patients, treat and discharge with any necessary follow-up referrals in place.”

Cathryn’s work is at the heart of developing the paramedic profession to take a greater role in urgent care, although she is far too modest to shout about her achievements. Her face lights up when describing her work as an ECP, though. “To go into someone’s home on the worst day of their life and be able to help them. It’s a privilege. You can’t beat it.”