Advanced paramedic practitioner Maria James is using her emergency instincts and many skills to help patients in the community and alleviate pressure on GPs.
The experienced paramedic, who works at Abercynon Medical Centre, not only helps patients with minor illnesses such as chest infections and ear aches, but carries out home visits, takes blood for testing and provides end of life care in the community.
She can also refer patients for x-rays, ultra-sounds or for further appointments with a GP or at a hospital.
Her role is enabling more people to be seen at the busy practice, freeing up GPs to see the sickest patients first and ensures patients are treated by the most appropriate professional for their needs.
Maria, 46, who lives in Abercynon said, “Patients are always happy to see me and I love my job because I know that I can offer help for a variety of conditions which means those with more complex conditions can hopefully be seen more quickly by the GPs.
“I also have the time to build relationships with my patients and get more involved in their care from start to finish. When you are able to treat someone in the community and avoid hospital you know you are making a difference.”
Maria’s role is just one example of the fantastic healthcare services available in the community that are being highlighted as part of Cwm Taf University Health Board’s #YourLocalTeam campaign.
The campaign aims to raise awareness of the range of professionals, such as physiotherapists, nurse practitioners and community pharmacists, who can help patients, without the need to go to the doctor first.
Maria, who works at the 6,500 capacity surgery full time, see around 18 patients in the surgery and more on home visits every day.
Having worked as a paramedic with the Welsh Ambulance Service across Rhondda Cynon Taff she finds that her emergency instincts, coupled with the extra training she has received, enable her to react well to patient needs.
She recently saw a patient who had come in complaining of stomach pain but immediately spotted that it may be something more serious and arranged prompt lifesaving treatment.
She said, “Having worked in emergency situations I can usually recognise if someone is really poorly, so can react quickly whether that’s ringing an ambulance or referring for urgent treatment.
“The other side of my job now though is that I’m also able to provide continuous care for my patients. It’s not just about saving lives but about changing lives.”
Marina Wright, 75, whose housebound husband Henry, 78, has a chronic lung condition said that the care and support Maria has provided has benefitted them both.
Mrs Wright said, “It’s so good to know that I’m able to call on Maria when we need help and her support has enabled Henry to have more treatment in the community with fewer admissions into hospital. This has made a big difference to my husband and I, and we find her care reassuring to all the family.”
Ann Brown, who manages the medical centre, said that although demand was still high, Maria’s role has helped to take the pressure off the GPs.
She said, “A lot of illnesses that come through the door can be dealt with by Maria freeing up time for our GPs.
“We are lucky that many of our patients are already really savvy about seeing the best person suited for their needs whether that’s the pharmacist, a practice nurse or Maria. They understand that seeing the GP is not always the best option and are a lot more aware of what is available, which is a huge help to everyone.”