Nine apprentices are learning how to provide a vital service to patients across the region having started careers with the North East Ambulance Service.

Carl Wilkinson, Iain Stewart, Joe Osborne, Alice Murray, Andrew Lillico, Amy Galley, Ryan Allinson, Sarah Holey and Caitlyn Skelsey have all started Patient Transport Service apprenticeships delivered through Northern Skills Group.

The cohort will all spend one year as ambulance care assistants – delivering inter-hospital transfers, hospital discharges and palliative care transport.

It’s all part of an investment in the next generation of ambulance service staff and the apprenticeships could be the beginning of great things for this group.

Andrew Lamb, education coordinator with the North East Ambulance Service, explained: “This role is seen as a great entry point for a career in the NHS, and many former ambulance care assistants have gone on to secure permanent positions as Ambulance Care Assistants, Emergency Care Assistants or train to become paramedics.

“The apprentices start with a four-week induction period, in which they learn first aid, ambulance service policy and importantly driving skills.

“Once that’s complete they’ll spend a year in the role, supported by mentors and experience Patient Transport Service staff, gaining important on-the-job experience.”

The trainees will spend the initial part of the programme at the NHS’ Lanchester Road Hospital training facility, in County Durham.

This includes tutoring which will give them a chance to earn a C1 qualification on their driving licence – allowing them to drive medium-sized vehicles.

Since 2012, the North East Ambulance Service has trained 79 apprentices – 52 of whom are still working for the trust today in a range of roles including emergency care and student paramedics.

Now as a contributor to the Apprenticeship Levy, the Ambulance Service continues to invest in future skills.

Peter Wilson, Northern Skills Group director, said: “It’s great to see another creative use of apprenticeship training in the North East as part of a carefully considered, long term workforce development strategy.

“As Apprenticeship Levy payers the North East Ambulance Service has embraced the opportunities available as a consequence of this new model apprenticeship funding and is planning its investment in skills and training accordingly.

“The Northern Skills Group team is thrilled to be supporting this cohort as they progress into jobs that are critical to the fabric of our health service.”