An ambulance care assistant or patient transport service (PTS) driver will move disabled, elderly and vulnerable people to and from outpatient clinics, daycare centres and routine hospital admissions.
They often see the same people on a regular basis and get to know them. Some of their passengers will be anxious about their visit and others will lead isolated lives.
They are based at a central depot such as a large hospital, with a team of other assistants, depending on the type of vehicle they drive. They will cover a particular geographical area and might work shifts.
They may be part of a two-person team using a specially designed ambulance with a tail-lift for wheelchairs, carrying several people on each journey. Alternatively, they might work on their own, driving a standard car to transport one or two able-bodied people at a time.
As well as driving, they also lift and move patients in and out of the vehicle, making sure they are safe and comfortable during the journey and arrive on time for their appointment.
An ambulance care assistant is also trained in resuscitation in case a patient is taken ill whilst in their care.
Other duties include making sure that the vehicle is clean and tidy and keeping an accurate record of journeys undertaken.
A good general education is usually required to work as an ambulance care assistant/PTS driver, although many ambulance trusts require GCSEs, NVQs or equivalent qualifications and/or relevant work experience.
In order to drive an ambulance, whether emergency or non-emergency, you will need a full, manual driving licence. Ambulance service trusts use vehicles of different gross weights and staff will be required to hold a driving licence with the appropriate classifications to enable them to drive vehicles in that particular trust.
In some ambulance services, a 'standard' driving licence may be acceptable, but if you passed your test after 1996, you may need an extra driving qualification to drive larger vehicles and carry passengers. Some services may provide support for staff who need to gain further licence classifications, but this is not standard across the UK. It is therefore essential that applicants check with each ambulance service trust to which they intend to apply.
To train as an ambulance care assistant/PTS driver, you will take a two to three week training course in which you will learn moving and handling techniques, first aid, basic patient skills and safe driving techniques. The course incorporates assessment and written practical examinations, successful trainees are then attached to an ambulance station where they work under the guidance of a trained supervisor for a probationary period before working unsupervised.
An ambulance care assistant/PTS driver can undertake further training to become an emergency care assistant. With experience and further training, they can apply for student paramedic positions, and if successful, progress to becoming a registered paramedic. They would have to pass entrance exams and fulfil additional selection criteria before being accepted onto a paramedic course.
All ambulance service trusts in England and Wales advertise on the NHS Jobs website. You could also visit ambulance service trust websites directly and Jobcentre Plus.
Please visit the NHS Choices website for details of ambulance service trusts.