'It's not safe': Patients at risk as volunteer first responders 'fill in for paramedics', ITV News told

Patients are finding themselves at risk because first responders are increasingly being asked to fill in for paramedics, ITV News has found.

The volunteer first aiders are discharging patients on the orders of nurses and ambulance staff despite it being in breach of official guidelines.

First responders, who are on scene before paramedics to provide comfort and support, told ITV News that many patients who call 999 are not being seen by trained clinicians.

When cases are deemed low priority first responders are given permission to discharge patients, it has been claimed.

Both first responders and union Unison have criticised the measures as "deeply concerning" and putting patients' lives at risk.

One first responder told ITV News the volunteers were being asked to breach the guidelines of their role.

"It's not what the original concept was, but if its a lower priority call, or we feel it's a lower priority call, then we can speak to a nurse, give them some details and make the decision to discharge them or find an alternative pathway for them," a first responder said.

He admitted that some patients would not even be treated by a trained clinician or paramedic but be "satisfied" having seen somebody in a uniform.

"They are using us to stop the clock and to fend off complaints so if someone is there the patient doesn't know any difference."

He continued: "It is dangerous, though, and it's not safe for us to be dealing with some of the patients we are dealing with on our own for a long period of time."

Unions and first responders described the measures as 'concerning'.

One of the creators of the service said our findings were "very concerning" and "should not be going on at all".

"Community First Responders are not trained to see and discharge patients and if they are that is very dangerous," he said.

Union Unison also described the claims as "concerning".

A spokesperson told ITV News: " This could put that individual at risk, it could be the patients and public at risk.

"Patients need to be seen by a trained clinician that can then discharge them."