Four members of the ambulance service in Gibraltar have become the territory’s first paramedics after being trained by staff at Kingston University and St George’s, University of London.

Previously, ambulances in Gibraltar were staffed by emergency medical technicians who had less clinical knowledge.

But now with the four new paramedics – Jenny Garrett, Mike Valarino, Sigurd Haveland and Paul Watson – Gibraltarians will get the benefits of improved knowledge and specialist skills.

The paramedics were trained by the Centre for Paramedic Science in the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education – run jointly by the two London-based universities.

The Faculty has been training nurses for Gibraltar since 2007 through a franchise set up by the Gibraltar Health Authority. The contract was extended to paramedic training, because of the need to transform emergency services for the territory.

Although franchises are common for nursing training, the links with Gibraltar marked the first time the Health Care Professions Council has ever approved a programme outside the UK.

On November 5, the graduation procession stopped the traffic on the main street of Gibraltar from the Governor’s House to the John Mackintosh Hall where the ceremony took place.

Staff from the Gibraltar Health Authority and academics from Kingston University and St George’s, University of London were led by Dr John Cortes, the Minister for Health and the Environment, and Professor Julius Weinberg, the Vice-Chancellor of Kingston University who attended the ceremony.

Dr John Cortes praised the “important and fruitful” contribution the two universities had made to the careers of Gibraltar’s nurses and paramedics. He added: “I want to reinforce our commitment to the provision of proper, accredited and recognised professional training for employees of our Gibraltar Health Service.

“If you invest in training then you are facilitating continuous professional improvement in service. Training is the backbone to moving forwards towards a culture of prevention rather than pursing cure.

“To both work and study at the same time is a huge achievement as this takes total commitment, dedication and ultimately, many sacrifices are made. We are very proud of all our diplomats and graduands, many of whom will now be working as registered nurses within the Gibraltar Health Authority.”

Faculty Dean Professor Fiona Ross congratulated the pioneering paramedics and nursing graduates and thanked the Gibraltar Health Authority for its support developing and building the partnership.