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Paramedic Apprenticeship Programme

in conjunction with the University of Cumbria

The Trust runs an internal education pathway, the Paramedic Apprenticeship Programme, in conjunction with the University of Cumbria for those aspiring to train to become a paramedic. This programme is open to staff with a minimum of two years front line NHS service as an emergency care assistant (ECA), ambulance practitioner (AP) or technician.

Higher level and degree apprenticeships are a great option for people of any age. As long as you’re committed and passionate, then you could benefit from the opportunity to learn and earn alongside your job in the Trust.

Apprenticeship programmes are designed to be studied whilst working, to help you progress academically and professionally in your programme of study and in your career. On the apprenticeship programme, you will benefit from a workplace mentor and a university personal tutor, who will work together to monitor your progress regularly.

Every individual is different, but someone who is well organised, hardworking, resilient, able to work in a team and conduct themselves as a confident individual stands a great chance of being successful as an apprentice. Your programme will not just provide an academic education, but help you develop as an individual.

Full information about a paramedic degree is available here.

Am I eligible to apply?

Successful applications will have to demonstrate all of the following, proof of which will be required as part of the recruitment and selection process:

  • A minimum of two years’ experience as a front-line NHS emergency care assistant (ECA), ambulance practitioner (AP) or technician;
  • GCSE Grade 4-9 (historically A-C) in Maths and English, or the equivalent Functional Skills certificate. You will need to be able to evidence your qualifications (see here);
  • Working a minimum of 30 contracted hours per week.
What does it cost?

This programme will utilise the Trust’s apprenticeship levy and will therefore cover the tuition fees of the programme.

There is however a prerequisite module for the apprenticeship which is a bridging course which cannot be funded via the levy, therefore this needs to be self-funded at the cost of £1,550. The Trust can offer support to cover this upfront and for you to then pay this back over a 12-month period through salary deductions.

What is the bridging course?

The prerequisite module, known as the bridging course, is six months in duration and a programme of learning which enables a learner to progress from a context where they are capable of studying at Level 3 to a context where they are capable of studying at Level 4, and beyond.

How do I apply?

Please refer to the recruitment and selection guidance below.

When can I apply?

Please refer to the recruitment and programme dates below.

What else do I need to know?

There is a comprehensive frequently asked questions (FAQs) section below that we would strongly encourage you to read to ensure that you fully understand the programme and the requirements of you.

The FAQs are lengthy however they cover everything you need to know from what the teaching components are on the apprenticeship to changes to your rota line – so it is all REALLY IMPORTANT INFORMATION!

Got an unanswered question? Please contact the Organisational Development Team at ODTeam@swast.nhs.uk


The prerequisite module, known as the bridging course, is six months in duration and a programme of learning which enables a learner to progress from a context where they are capable of studying at Level 3 to a context where they are capable of studying at Level 4, and beyond.

The bridging programme comprises of three elements:

+ 24-month full-time employment as an ECA (3150 hours)

+ L3 Diploma in Ambulance Emergency and Urgent Care Support – (480 learning hours)

+ Level 4 bridging programme portfolio

Applicants must complete all three elements in order to be eligible for entry to level 5. The portfolio will be assessed, alongside the other requirements, against level 4 skills, knowledge and practice.

The bridging course allows academic staff (university lecturers) to check evidence that underpinning knowledge, understanding and skills are evident to ensure readiness for level 5 study and practice. The course allows students to enter onto the second year of a BSc Paramedic course directly, negating the requirement to undertake the first year of the degree.

Learners must successfully pass the bridging course in order to progress on to the apprenticeship programme.

Generally, most learners will be required to undertake the bridging course, however where a learner has prior academic study/credits, these can be discussed as to whether they can APEL. Please see guidance below.

Bridging course academic requirements

Please click on the links below which contain invaluable details and information about the bridging module in its entirety.

The two flyers below aim to visually inform you of what the bridging course offers.

AAP bridging course level 3 flyer

AAP bridging course level 4 flyer

The two videos below aim to discuss the bridging courses provided by the University of Cumbria.

A brief introduction to level 3 & 4 bridging courses

Selection Stage One
  • Expression of Interest (EOI)
  • Line Manager Reference

Applicants are to submit their EOI in order to be considered for the course.

Applicants are to ask their direct line manager to complete a reference form. The reference form must be submitted by the line manager.

Applicants will be shortlisted on essential criteria and line manager support.

Selection Stage Two

Those who meet the essential criteria and supported line manager’s reference will be invited to a group interview process. This process will be undertaken and led by Cumbria University in conjunction with SWAST. This will be a virtual process.

Final Selection Stage

Successful applicants will be appointed based on highest overall score of the group interview, Talent Pool and line manager reference.

Successful individuals will be offered a place on the prerequisite bridging module.

The below is a guide of dates for the upcoming cohorts (could be subject to change).

Cohort Recruitment Opens Recruitment Closes Group Interviews Bridge Start Bridge End App’ship Start Date App’ship End Date
5 Jan-22 Feb-22 Mar-22 01-Jun-22 30-Nov-22 13-Feb-23 Feb-25
6 Jan-22 Feb-22 Mar-22 15-Aug-22 15-Feb-23 10-Apr-23 Apr-25
7 Jan-23 Feb-23 TBC 01-Jun-23 30-Nov-23 12-Feb-24 Feb-26
8 Jan-23 Feb-23 TBC 14-Aug-23 14-Feb-24 08-Apr-24 Apr-26

Click here to expand and see all FAQs

Q What are the requirements for application?

Successful applications will have to demonstrate all of the following, proof of which will be required as part of the selection process:

–       A minimum of two years’ experience as an ECA, ambulance practitioner or technician as at the commencement of the bridging module for the cohort you are applying for;

–       GCSE Grade A-C in Maths and English, or the equivalent Functional Skills certificate. You will need to be able to evidence your qualifications as at the commencement of the apprenticeship for the cohort you are applying for;

–       A minimum contract of 30 hours per week.

The requirement for the GCSE/Functional Skills or an equivalent qualification is an essential requirement to progress on this course. If you do not currently hold the above qualifications, you can contact your local college to find out how you can obtain these, alternatively you can look online – Improve your English, maths and IT skills – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)


Q Can you tell me all about the funding side of the programme and if I am tied into a training bond with the Trust on completion/withdrawal of the apprenticeship?

As a formal apprenticeship, the programme will be fully funded through the Apprenticeship Levy. The intention of the apprenticeship is to provide a development pathway to paramedic and retain our people.

There is however a prerequisite module (bridging course) to be completed prior to commencement on the apprenticeship and this cannot be funded via the levy. This will need to be self-funded at the cost of £1,550. The Trust can offer a salary deduction repayment scheme for this should you wish to utilise it; it will be repaid directed from your salary at a rate of £125 per month, for 12 months and repayment would commence from the start of the bridging course. If you are able to self-fund this as a lump sum, you can pay this way. You cannot fund the bridging course with student finance.

Should you fail the course, or withdraw from the course at any point prior to completion, there will be a requirement to repay a proportion of the associated costs.

You will also be required to repay any remaining amount due for the bridging course that has not already been repaid via salary deduction.

If for reasons other than redundancy, end of a fixed term contract or ill health retirement you leave the Trust’s employ within 24 months of completing a course provided or funded by the Trust you may be required to reimburse some of the costs associated with this course. An individual discussion will take place to advise you on any associated costs. Please be aware that the Trust may recover monies owed from any salary received during your notice period. The Trust will recover up to 50% of your final salary if required to recover training costs. Any balance outstanding after this will be invoiced to you by our Payroll Department.


Q Why do I have to have a minimum 30 hour per week contract for this course and will you take into account any overtime I do regularly?

In the format that this course will be delivered, you must be contracted for at least 30 hours per week in order to fulfil the requirements of the course as set by the Education Skills and Funding Agency.

Working less than 30 hours per week does not preclude you from being eligible for the apprenticeship, however to accommodate the learning on less than 30 hours per week requires an increased delivery duration under the apprenticeship rules. Therefore we are unable to facilitate cohorts with a mixed of working hours of 30 hours+, and less than 30 hours.

The requirement to work 30 hours is a requirement to meet the apprenticeship standard, as set by the Education Skills and Funding Agency. In order to fulfil this requirement, we can only take into account your contracted hours, as overtime cannot be guaranteed for the entirety of the course.


Q I want to increase my contracted hours to make me eligible, how do I do this?

The ability to increase your working hours will be dependent on workforce requirements, establishment and vacancy rates in your area. You should speak to your county commander in the first instance.

You will need to ensure that any approved increase in hours is contractually in place as at the commencement of the apprenticeship for the cohort you are applying for.


Q What does the apprenticeship look like, what modules will I study?

Teaching components will be delivered in the SWAST region without the need to travel to Cumbria and will include.

·         41 academic days per year (mixture of delivery methods e.g. lecture, simulations, virtual learning etc.) – these days will be delivered in block week sessions whereby you will be booked for designated university days for a week at a time; this will help with your consolidation of learning and allow flexibility for additional placements in SWASFT

·         5 days of non-ambulance placements per year

·         Completion of a portfolio

·         Requirement to undertake additional study in own time

The proposed modules (subject to validation) are:

Level 5 – Year 1 of the two-year programme

·       Developing clinical care, judgement and competence in paramedic practice

·       Pre-hospital recognition & management of acute illness and long-term conditions

·       Pre-hospital care & management of trauma and environmental emergencies

·       Pre-hospital care of women and children’s health

·       Research Methods

Level 6 – Year 2 of the 2-year programme

·         Enhancing clinical practice & decision making for the contemporary paramedic

·         Preparing the professional practitioner

·         Holistic approach to patient health & wellbeing

·         Understanding primary and urgent care

·         Dissertation

Prior to the apprenticeship programme, you will also need to complete a short period of bridging learning. This will be in the form of seven or eight face-to-face (or virtual) days of learning, giving you the skills to take away to develop a portfolio of evidence and testimonies, concluding with a final academic piece of writing.


Q On successful completion of the programme what qualification will I attain?

On successful completion of the apprenticeship, you will have a BSc Hons in Paramedic Science with eligibility to apply to the HCPC for registration as a paramedic.


Q Where will placements and practice sessions take place?

Placements and practice sessions will be delivered regionally, within the SWAST area.


Q What will happen to my pay?

During training, you will remain in your substantive role, and therefore your salary will remain the same.

Under the new pay deal agreement, any member of staff who has a change in role after 1 September 2018 will move from Annex 5 (e) to Section 2 from the start of their new role.

Therefore there will not be any automatic change to your unsocial hours payments whilst you are employed as an ECA and undertaking the programme, however you will move to Section 2 unsocial hours arrangements on commencement into an NQP position. However please see Q23 regarding possible changes to base stations and lines, which may impact on your unsocial hours payments.

Pay deal national documentation is available at http://www.nhsemployers.org/2018contract


Q I don’t meet the minimum requirements for ECA experience; will you consider CFR/Hub/fire co-responder/other experience?

The entry requirements for this programme are set by the University of Cumbria, and require an ECA to be working for an NHS Ambulance Trust. Therefore, we are unable to accept other experience such as Hub, community responder, fire co-responder experience in place.

This experience also needs to be ‘contemporary’. If you have recent experience as an ECA, but have not worked for the last two years as an ECA then your application would need to be reviewed by the University of Cumbria on an individual basis.

Experience as an ECA from outside of SWAST will need to be reviewed on an individual basis, and acceptability will be dependent on which Trust you were working with, and that Trust’s ECA training course content.

Your period of ECA training can count towards satisfying the experience requirement.


Q Do I need to build a portfolio in advance of applying?

This is always a good idea and will help evidence that you are committed to progressing.


Q I have a degree in another subject; does this supersede the need to have GCSE Grade A-C in Maths and English, or the equivalent Functional Skills certificate?

No. Both Maths and English are required to be standalone qualifications and not form part of another qualification. This is set by the Education Funding & Skills Agency for the Paramedic Apprenticeship Programme.

For further information regarding qualifications, click on the link here – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/english-and-maths-requirements-in-apprenticeship-standards-at-level-2-and-above


Q What do the non-ambulance placements consist of?



Within the apprenticeship programme you will be required to attend five non-ambulance based placement days in each academic year.

Placement days will be arranged by our practice placement team in liaison with ROC students.  Placement opportunities are offered within several departments across the Trust, such as Tiverton UCC, HART, SPUEC shifts and, when available, the Clinical Hubs.

The non-ambulance placements will not be hosted by any other trust, meaning there are no maternity, community, primary, acute care or theatre placements.


Q Are the abstractions for the bridging course, study days and non-ambulance placements funded or taken from my own time?



You will be required to attend seven or eight days of face-to-face time as part of the bridging module. These days must be covered from your ‘own time’ and therefore with rest days, annual leave, TOIL etc.

There are 46 days of abstraction allocated to the apprenticeship study per year, which will account for all the contact time required. These will be covered within your contracted hours and therefore you will not be required to use your ‘own time’ for this contact time. These days will be calculated as 7.5 hour days.

There will, however, be an expectation that you will need to do some study in your own time as part of your achievement of the apprenticeship.


Q Will I have a practice educator?



You will have a nominated practice educator who will support you throughout the program.

Practice educators must have a mentorship qualification and attend the yearly updates.  As you are on a relief rota, there is no expectation for your practice educator to work shifts with you. You will be required to evidence your progress and clinical skills in your portfolio and demonstrate this to your practice educator for any sign-off.

The selection of appropriate practice educators will be managed by the Learning and Development team. Your practice educator may not be your current/regular crewmate.


Q Will there be a change to my rota/shift pattern and/or base station?



The HCPC requirements for this programme are that a broad and varied range of clinical exposure and support is provided to the learner. In order to achieve this without placements external to SWAST, it will be necessary for you to be flexible to work from a variety of locations and with a range of professional colleagues.

Due to course abstraction requirements there will be significant disruption to any existing rota pattern, and therefore to provide stability you will be required to move into relief on commencement of the full apprenticeship programme. You will remain on your existing arrangements for the duration of the bridging programme.

If you are on Section 2 you will continue to be paid as such.

If you are on Annex E, you will receive unsocial pay at 21% regardless of station, from the point of commencement on the apprenticeship programme. You will move onto Section 2 at the point of completion of the apprenticeship, when you move into an NQP position.

In the unfortunate circumstance that you need to withdraw from or fail the course and you have relinquished your ECA rota line, this will not have been left open for you to return. This is because the expectation is that you will successfully complete the course and move into an NQP role, not returning to your previous ECA line.

If planning to embark on this course you should do so on the understanding that you will be expected to work flexibly in order to achieve the Apprenticeship requirements. This will mean:

·         You will have to move away from your current line and into relief;

·         Your existing line will not be protected.


Q Will I be guaranteed a paramedic position when I qualify?

On successful completion of the course you will be offered a paramedic vacancy as soon as one is available, however the location of vacancies at the time you will qualify cannot be determined this far ahead.

There may be a competitive process if the demand for a specific vacancy is high to ensure fair allocation.

If you choose to decline the position offered to you, it may mean that you are placed in a holding pool until you do accept a paramedic position. Until you accept a position and move onto a clinician line, you will remain in your ECA role at ECA pay.

When you accept a paramedic position, you will receive induction and preceptorship on commencement of the newly qualified paramedic role.

Paramedic positions offered on qualification will be on a relief basis.


Q Will I be bound by the HCPC Code of Conduct, Ethics and Performance?

You will be expected to adhere to the HCPC Code of Conduct of Performance and Ethics, as well as the Student Code of Conduct, from your commencement on the programme, otherwise you may face a Fitness to Practice hearing or review with the University of Cumbria which will determine your continuation on the programme.

Guidance on the HCPC Student Code of Conduct and Ethics can be found here: https://www.hcpc-uk.org/resources/guidance/guidance-on-conduct-and-ethics-for-students/


Q Do I need to purchase any equipment in order to study?

You will be giving an iPad by the University of Cumbria to support your on-the-job learning, however you will need to ensure you have access to a computer or laptop at home in order to write your assignments.


Q How long are the placement blocks? Are they the same if I am working on reduced hours?

The placement blocks are 37.5 hrs a week, Monday to Friday. These are spaced out and avoid school holidays. Apprentices who are working less than 37.5 hrs a week, will accrue any additional hours from placement blocks and this fluctuation will be managed by the ROC in future relief planning in line with the normal rolling relief processes.


Q Can I stay on my part-time line and work additional shifts to make me up to 30 hrs a week?

This will not be possible. The regular blocks of abstraction and the requirement for apprentices to work in different locations and with different colleagues will require Apprentices to show flexibility in the shifts they work. Any shift pattern will need to be heavily amended in order to make this possible and to effectively manage the contracted hours for apprentices, which is why all apprentices will be moved into relief.


Q What days will I need to be available for the bridging course?

You will need to attend a remote induction for the commencement of the bridging course and then you will need to be available for a 2-hourly session once per month for the remainder of bridging module with University of Cumbria.

You will be responsible for ensuring that you are available to attend one of them by working with your ROC scheduler.


Q What expenses can I claim during the bridging and apprenticeship courses?

If you are required to travel in excess of 60 miles or over 60 minutes for your academic days or placements, the Trust will reimburse your travel costs at the reserve rate, subject to approval via your line manager or equivalent.

For those staff who will be required to travel in excess of 60 miles or over 60 minutes, for two consecutive dates, you will be provided up to the amount of £50 towards your overnight accommodation.


Q Can I work annualised hours?

No. The trust moved away from annualised hours a few years ago and is no longer something that is supported within this organisation.

In short, the difficulties lay with managing and monitoring of this system, and require speciality and quite time consuming management per individual, which will lead to issues with compliance of hours and issues with A/L allocation. Secondly, the system requires individuals to ultimately self-roster, which again is not supported by the Trust. All resource planning is finely balanced to ensure safe service delivery which ROC need oversight as this requires intricate planning through relief to manage this effectively.

Thinking of higher education study or about to commence your journey on the apprenticeship programme?

The Head Start Plus to Apprenticeships is an online open module for you to freely access as you start on your journey towards transitioning into University academic studies at levels 5 and 6.

To support the development of your academic skills and digital capabilities whilst helping to boost your confidence as you transition into academic study alongside working in your daily role, the ‘Head Start Plus to Apprenticeships’ module is available for you to access online and reflects one way of working through a University assignment journey.

Everyone can access this version and no log-ins are required. If you do secure a place on the apprenticeship programme then you will fully register with Cumbria University and learners will access the module via the closed blackboard VLE platform, which is then monitored with regards to usage and progression.

Utilising this functionality will help you to start thinking about academic writing and the requirements of you if you are considering applying or in fact are due to commence on the Paramedic Apprenticeship Programme.

The three videos below aim to provide Practice Educators with the support and education needed for apprentice paramedics in the clinical practice environment.

Video 1 – Introduction to the Degree Apprenticeship

Video 2 – The Mentor/Mentee relationship

Video 3 – Safeguarding the Learner

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