Advanced first aid skills for police officers in specialist roles: the ‘what’

Advanced first aid skills for police officers in specialist roles: the ‘what’

Following on from the blog: why some police officers in specialist roles have advanced first aid skills, those who have not previously had any exposure to the work may be interested to read more about the skills and equipment.

The current Police First Aid Learning Programme was originally devised in the late 1990s and early 2000s as four modules, the upper one being aligned to the Health and Safety Executive’s First Aid and Work recommendations. It soon became clear that skills at this level did not meet the risk assessment for officers in higher risk environments, particularly for firearms officers, and whilst some forces adhered to the Module 4 upper level on a par with a shop first aider, other forces began devising their own training, some training to paramedic level. This resulted in massive variation nationally, and the then Association of Chief Police Officers approached the Faculty to devise a more relevant qualification. The result was module D13 of the firearms training syllabus. With the wider application of this level of first aid skills clearly required by other officers outside of firearms, Module 5 of the College of Policing’s First Aid Learning Programme was born. Whilst D13 is commonly used to refer to any advanced police first aid, it is specific to firearms and encompasses the tactical application of casualty care in conjunction with firearms tactics. Other officers who train and equip for advanced first aid will do in their own environments, without firearms tactics, so to call all such training ‘D13’ is mistaken.

All officers who take Module 5 must also undertake Module 4 as a pre-requisite to their advanced training, or more commonly both modules are combined as one course. Whilst there are national minimum standards outlined in Module 5, because of the differences in local governance the exact skillset of a Police Medic does vary between police forces and even between departments in police forces. By way of example, whilst core of training will cover the same material, armed officers may concentrate more on ballistic injuries, whereas public order (riot) officers may look more at burns and blunt force trauma, and marine policing officers more at environmental conditions and drowning. Officers in tactical environments often align the way they deploy their skills in line with the general principles Tactical Emergency Casualty Care, ensuring that the level of casualty care delivered is appropriate for the threat – no-one wants to be trying to take a pulse whilst someone is throwing bricks at your head!

I don’t propose to go through all of the Module 5 training here, the full document is publicly available here. The core skills include dealing with mass haemorrhage, airway management using adjuncts, recognition and management of chest injuries, burns, oxygen administration, splinting, environmental factors and casualty packaging and evacuation.  Module 5, depending on the content taught locally, is aligned to Level D or E on the Faculty’s PHEM Competency Framework. At the risk of being side-tracked, this is an ideal opportunity to highlight the usefulness of that Framework.  As anyone in the pre-hospital world will have experienced, it can be very difficult to understand the myriad of qualifications or skillsets across the full range of pre-hospital providers – each of whom could probably write a blog similar to this one outlining their own niche – and this particularly difficult at an incident, in the dark and wet, when you’re encountering them for the first time. Whilst it is understood that the competencies outlined on the Framework will not suit every organisation’s needs and there will be variance, rather than try to understand every single provider or practitioners’ skillset it would be so much simpler if the Faculty’s Framework were more widely adopted and understood in order to easily convey scope of practice.

As with any advanced first aid or casualty care provision at this level, police forces are expected to have clinical governance in place, ensuring that their local risk assessments, taught techniques and equipment are fit for purpose, up to date, and clinically appropriate for their ‘why’. Whilst expert opinion is useful, the only way this governance can be done effectively is with evidence to lead judgement, and the Faculty has been at the forefront of highlighting this through papers and updates. A national governance arrangement is also in place to ensure that the core minimum standards are equally appropriate across Module 5.


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