Understanding complaints about paramedics: a qualitative exploration in a UK context

Grace Lucas, Ann Gallagher, Magda Zasada, Zubin Austin, Robert Jago, Sarah Banks, Anna van der Gaag



This research set out to understand the context and explore the reasons for the disproportionate number of complaints raised against paramedics to the United Kingdom professional regulator – the Health and Care Professions Council – relative to other health professions.


This paper reports on qualitative findings from one aspect of a mixed-methods study which included a case analysis, Delphi study and literature review. One-to-one semi-structured interviews conducted with 15 stakeholders drawn from practitioners, educators, representatives and regulators, and three focus groups held with 16 practitioners and service users were used to gain an in-depth understanding of the possible reasons for complaints about paramedic practice.


Five themes were generated from a thematic analysis of the data: the impact of public perceptions and expectations; the challenges of day-to-day practice; the effect of increasingly pressurised services; the organisational and cultural climate which impacts paramedics’ work; and the evolving nature of the profession.


This study highlights the complex and changing nature of paramedic practice. It provides an insight into the ways in which the character, practice and environment of the profession contribute to a disproportionate number of complaints.


paramedic; emergency medical services; professional practice; professionalism; registration; complaints

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.33151/ajp.16.616


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