London Ambulance Service recently launched a new campaign – Shockingly Easy – to raise awareness of the importance of workplace defibrillators. The campaign aims to save more lives by installing at least 1,000 extra defibrillators in the capital.
Defibrillators – which are used to deliver an electric shock to the heart to restart it during cardiac arrest – are rapidly becoming an essential part of first aid provision at work. In February this year the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) commissioned a survey of 1,000 business decision-makers across the UK and found that 513 did not have the lifesaving equipment at work. Almost two thirds of those who said ‘no’ also came from medium to very large companies.
A defibrillator in the workplace
Richard Hunt CBE, chairman of London Ambulance Service, outlines why businesses should be giving serious consideration to this issue: “There are approximately 60,000 cardiac arrests in the UK every year and around 10,000 of these occur in the capital. When you have a cardiac arrest your heart stops, blood is no longer being pumped around the body and you are clinically dead.
“It’s crucial that cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR – chest compressions and rescue breaths) and defibrillation is given to the patient in the first three to four minutes. Having a defibrillator within easy access of anyone having a cardiac arrest can often mean the difference between life and death.”
He continues: “Around 28% of people survive an out of hospital cardiac arrest but, where there is a defibrillator and someone trained to use it, the chance of survival can increase to 80%.”
The risk of cardiac arrest can strike at any time.
James Fuller, 28, was in a meeting at work in Canary Wharf one Monday when he collapsed and suffered a cardiac arrest. An ambulance was called immediately, along with the trained first aid rep in the office.
One of James’s colleagues, who had learnt basic life support at school, started giving CPR to him as soon as he stopped breathing, while taking additional advice over the telephone from the ambulance call taker.
Within minutes, London Ambulance Service crew were on the scene and gave James two shocks with a defibrillator and his heartbeat returned. He was taken to hospital and discharged a few weeks later with an internal cardioverter defibrillator fitted. He has made a full recovery and is now working again.
Another life was recently saved at Mansion House, the home and office of the Lord Mayor of London, where the keeper of the Walbrook Hall, John Davies, used the Mansion House defibrillator to save the life of a Brazilian woman in her 50s being chauffeur-driven through the City of London.
Trained first-aider John, a former Welsh Guards Bandsman, said: “The chauffeur got out and asked for help and the Mansion House security team called me to the woman and brought me a defibrillator to use. Having the right equipment and some basic training meant I could re-start her heart after cardiac arrest until the ambulance crews arrived and took over.”
Despite the high number of cardiac arrests in the UK every year and the good survival rate if CPR and defibrillation is quickly administered to the patient, many businesses are still reluctant to set up a defibrillator scheme because they lack the confidence to use one.
This was recently highlighted in research conducted by St John Ambulance that looked at the reasons why people might be put off helping in an emergency situation. The results show that 63% of people are more likely not to help because of a lack of confidence in their first aid knowledge.
Community resuscitation training officer Sheila Ryan at the London Ambulance Service said: “I see many people who are scared to use a defibrillator but after a quick training session covering the basics of CPR and how to use a defibrillator, there’s a miraculous transformation in their confidence levels. It’s really very simple to set up and manage a defibrillator scheme but there seems to be a perception that the machines are difficult to use or people could cause more harm than good. These simply aren’t true.”
London Ambulance Service’s Shockingly Easy campaign has developed a one-stop-shop approach to provide London-based organisations with 360-degree support and advice, from buying and installing a defibrillator, training staff on how to use it and advice on how to maintain it.
It also accredits organisations to give them peace of mind that they are correctly managing defibrillator scheme.
Nathan Jones is campaign manager – Shockingly Easy, at the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust.
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