Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Government cutbacks save lives

There are four types of heart rhythm that we (as Community Responders and First Aiders) are taught about. The squiggles that you see on a chart show the varying levels of electrical activity over time and by analysing these, medical staff are able to diagnose, not only specific problems but also the likely location of the problem (e.g. blockage), It's still mainly a black art to me, but I'm getting there.

Normal Sinus Rhythm (NSR)

This is the normal state of affairs for a heart, when it is beating regularly and is the one that most people will associate with a regular heartbeat, thanks to it popping up everywhere, Medical drama opening credits and documentaries especially. Heart muscle contracts if you apply electricity to it. The more electricity that is applied, the greater the contracting force. It is enough force to squeeze a lump of blood out from the heart and into the Main artery (the Aorta). Thus begins its journey around the body. It is this regular lump of blood travelling along the Arteries that we can detect as a pulse.

Asystole (flatline)

This is a straight line across the chart and indicates that there is no electrical activity in the heart at all. Or that you haven't yet connected the leads. Or that one has fallen off...

If all is well with the measuring equipment, then it would be fair to say that the patient is medically dead.

This strip shows a heartbeat stopping and going into asystole

Ventricular Fibrillation (VF)

The heart consists of four chambers. The two at the top are called 'Atria' and the two at the bottom 'Ventricles'. The Left Atrium and left Ventricle work together, as do the right pair. Normally the electrical system causes the Ventricle heart muscle to contract and relax in one smooth flowing movement. However, if electrical anarchists gain the upper hand, each bit of muscle in the Ventricle will contract when it wants. With such disorder, it does not squeeze the blood out effectively and no reliable pulse can be found The squiggles show pretty much random activity.

Ventricular tachycardia (VT)

'Tachy' means 'going fast', 'cardia' is to do with the heart. Says it all, really. Your heart is beating too fast so the Ventricles do not get a chance to fill with blood before squeezing it out. Again, no decent pulse is detectable.

There are other rhythms (or variations of the above) but this is all we need for now. What you need to know is that a defibrillator will not shock NSR (bad move if it tried), It also will not shock Asystole as, generally speaking, shocking it will not help. It will recognise and shock VF or VT in the hope of converting those rhythms to NSR again.
What you also need to know is that since you cannot shock Asystole, if your patient has that, then they are in a pretty bad way, much worse than the others.

Anyway, back to the story..another CFR story...

An elderly gentleman had been out shopping with his daughter. On getting back in her car, he had suddenly gone unconscious. Cue 999 call and I rocked up about three minutes later, immediately in front of a technician in a Rapid Response Vehicle (RRV - as opposed to my people carrier, a SRV).

Can't do a lot with him in the seat and as there was no trauma involved, neck and spine injuries were non-existent, so we rapidly lifted him out and lay him on the ground. I started CPR whilst the other Responder put his Defibrillator on the patient. His has a screen and we could see immediately that the patient was in Asystole. Nothing the Defibrillator can do (see above), so we crack on with CPR. Every now and again, we stop to check the rhythm, but still asystole. One of my CFR team stops by (happened to be passing) and lends a hand with the compressions.

After, what felt like 10-15 minutes an ambulance arrives. The crew jump out, one gets the handover, the other the stretcher. We lift the patient onto the stretcher and wheel him to the ambulance tail lift, cursing the potholes in the road.

Into the ambulance he goes and with three of them plus the patient and the daughter now inside, I stay outside and tidy up a bit.

It is very difficult (and ineffective) to do compressions whilst on the move, so normally the ambulance crew will work on a patient on site to try and get a heartbeat back or, as is often the case, call it a day after about 20 minutes (the protocol dictates that they try for 20 minutes) and declare the person dead (Recognise Life Extinct or ROLE for short). As our patient had been in asystole for so long, I fully expected the second outcome after 20 minutes or so.

I have been chatting to a couple of off duty nurses (this road seems to be a hotbed for off-duty medics) whilst this is going on and we all agree that the prognosis is not good (they could see and understand the waveform as well). Suddenly, the ambulance blue lights go on, the engine starts up and it takes off down the road. Gone. Just like that. We're left scratching our heads. Can't be giving up as that wasn't 20 minutes and if they were then there would be no reason to then rush off. Can't be alive as that rhythm was pretty terminal and it was a very quick time for them to have brought him back to a viable rhythm. Perhaps we've been dealing with Schrödinger's cat in disguise.


I caught up later that evening with one of the crew and found out a bit more. Apparently, in the few paces from the pavement to the ambulance, the potholes in the road jolted the heart enough to stimulate it into beating again! They got a rhythm back and so rushed him into hospital for more advanced treatment.

The patient survived (and was conscious) for a few more hours but, unfortunately died later that evening. However, in those few hours the family (including the daughter) were able to have their final chats and say their goodbyes properly. To me, that's a success of sorts and will have helped the family gain closure.

So 'thank you', Council, for your budget cuts, for without them he probably would have died in the back of an anonymous ambulance in an anonymous street.

Perhaps there's the makings of a dissertation or case study for someone here? Curiouser and curiouser.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Doctor knows best

One in a series of stories about patients that stand out for one reason or another. No names, no pack drill, no dates.

As a Community Responder, I get called out to many things (mostly chest pains where the patient clearly has forgotten where his or her chest is) but occasionally (on average 1 in 20 calls) it is a Cardiac Arrest.

A Cardiac Arrest is where the heart has stopped beating effectively (no pulse detected), as opposed to a heart attack, which is where most of the heart is working (beating) but part of it is being killed off by a clot.

Myself and a colleague had just cleared from a Job and were being sent to another. We had (at the time) pagers that sent through details of all jobs in the area, whether or not we were allocated to them. The details all included a Job code in the form 'number letter number'. (AMPDS for those that know). This job came through as a 6A1, which is a cardiac arrest - the most serious - and also showed the road, which I was just about to pass. I called in to Ambulance Control and was rapidly stood down from the job I was on my way to and reallocated to this. 30 seconds later I reached the door......

......only to be shown into a very much alive patient.

I started to get a history and it turns out that he'd jut been discharged from Hospital after receiving heart bypass surgery and was told to go home and take it easy. He did as anyone would do, given those instructions and took himself off to the pub for a smoke and some beers to celebrate.

Upon returning home, he had, indeed, gone into cardiac arrest, but had come round by the time that I, hotly followed by an Ambulance Solo Responder, arrived. As we started to get all this history, his heart stopped again. A quick precordial thump (not by me, I hasten to add) and the old ticker was running again....until it stopped.

It probably stopped and restarted 3 or 4 times by the time that an ambulance crew arrived to take him to hospital and we managed to get it going each time. Inbetween, he was perfectly awake, sat up and chatting away to us.

As far as I know he is still alive today, he certainly survived that day. Blokes (I'm sure this has to be a male trait) if your doctor tells you to take it easy as your heart has just been through hell and back, trust me. (S)he knows what he/she is talking about. Put your feet up, moderate exercise and lay off the stuff that earned you the bypass in the first place.

It's funny the things that stick out. Obviously, for the reasons above, the job itself sticks out, but I also remember him wearing a jacket, taking an interest in his appearance. Never mind his heart stopping from all those cigarettes, at least he looked presentable.

PS. Why do I go to a lot of patients with emphysema / COPD from years of smoking. They are on permanent Oxygen therapy, piped around the house for their benefit, catching their breath yet the rest of the household still see fit to puff away. Quite often I come home and shower as the air is so thick with tobacco fumes it gets everywhere. Spare a thought for your family member struggling to breathe in the next room.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

What price for a life?

So, I've just completed a First Aid in Education questionnaire for some random student that found me online and found this gem during my research:

Average Secondary School spend per pupil in 2014 - £4,550

At the moment, pupils get no First Aid Training as part of the Curriculum.

If we assume 2 hours First Aid training per pupil per year: Say £100 per class of 30 to bring three Trainers in (at a max 1:12 ratio). That's just over £3 each. 0.06% of the budget. That's Peanuts. So why don't we do it?

How much of that £4,550 goes on, say, Religious Education? Surely £3 off that budget and 2 hours off the RE (RI, whatever) curriculum to save lives rather than souls would be money better spent?

4-year old Suzie calls 999 and saves mum's life


If you have to do CPR on someone, it's more likely that it is someone that you know than someone you don't know. What more of an incentive do we need?

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Can you learn First Aid from a video?

In 2013, the UK's Health and Safety Executive (HSE) - the Body that oversees Health and Safety in the Workplace - approved Blended learning when teaching First Aid.

What Blended learning means is that whilst some aspects of First Aid still need to be taught and practised face to face, a lot of it can be done remotely - for example by using video tutorials online.

On the face of it, this seems to be a strange move. First Aid is very much a practical skill. There is already a layman's fear of doing harm to a patient. To now say that you can try to save someone's life using techniques that you have watched online does not completely sit comfortably. How do you know that what you are doing is correct in terms of depth, speed, positioning and so on?

Perception vs Reality

Of course, it is not quite that bad. In practice, there are no completely online First Aid courses (Refreshers, yes. Initial courses, no). If you wish to obtain a (Emergency) First Aid at Work ( (E)FAW ) qualification, or one of the child / paediatric certificates you have to demonstrate practical skills at some point. However, a lot of the course groundwork can be undertaken online before the classroom session. The concepts and principles can be stepped through using videos and online question papers. Once the student can demonstrate a suitable level of understanding, (s)he can be signed off and allowed to attend the remainder of the course in a classroom.

What's in it for me?

The advantages of blended learning boil down to time and money.


First Aid at Work is a three day course, Ofsted compliant Paediatric is two days. For smaller organisations it can be hard to release an employee for that length of time and still keep the Business going. With one day of online work, this can be carried out whilst at work so that the employee is still available for work-related matters. It's not often that an Employer will encourage employees to sit around watching videos on work time....


As they saying goes, time is money. If you, as an employer send an employee away on a course, you still have to pay them for that day (plus expenses) but also possibly pay for cover. Agencies are not known for their altruism, staff drafted in will invariably cost more than regular staff.

Recording a Training video once and playing it many times is an economical way of delivering material and this is reflected in the cost of courses.  Whereas a typical course in a classroom will cost between £50 and £100 per person, ProTrainings (the certification Company that 4Minutes uses), for example, charges just £25 for the online part.

Precedent already set

Of course, First Aid is not the first to use blended training. Anyone that has taken a driving test in the last few years will know that there is now a Theory part that needs to be passed before the Practical. You still have to learn and take your test in a vehicle, thank goodness. At least for now. Once self-driving cars become more mainstream, I can see a day when there is a theory-only test. Interesting times ahead.

Any downsides?

Well, yes. As already mentioned, there is no feedback from the instructor if you are unsure and just watching someone perform CPR will not give you a feel for just how difficult it can be on a mannikin or a real person.


Blended learning and online-only learning is here to stay, like it or not. Whilst it has its place, 4Minute's stance is that all courses should have some face to face element when learning the major life-saving techniques. For underpinning knowledge and other parts of the course, then online at your own pace is almost as good as watching a trainer in person step through a series of Powerpoints.

What do you think?

Monday, 23 November 2015

FirstAid.Directory November 2015 Newsletter

FirstAid.Directory November Newsletter

A new look

Registration discount offer

Blowing hot and cold

Good News - Bad News

A New Look

The First Aid Directory has undergone a radical makeover. Next time that you are out in public, do take a moment to look at everyone passing by, heads bowed, moving purposefully forwards. Perhaps darting to one side every now and again.

No, they are not on a Route March to work, more likely they are engrossed in their mobile device. It's funny how things come full circle. PCs started with low resolution screens and when t'Internet came along, websites were optimised for smaller screens (640 x 480 pixels, typically).

As technology improved, screen resolution improved and websites got wider to fit more in. It was unthinkable to put any content 'below the fold' as it would not get seen.

When mobile phones arrived, screens were text only. Then Nokia started to introduce low resolution graphic displays, good for playing snake or Tetris and that was about it. However, in the mobile arms race, this extended to larger and larger screens and they also became touch sensitive.

At the current time, a significant number of users use mobile devices that to some extent reflect the low resolution PCs and website designers have had to allow for this. Hence the long, scrolling pages that you see nowadays. Below the fold content is now expected and Google has publicly stated that it will give preference to mobile-enabled websites.

TL;DR  The FirstAid Directory is now a single column website, optimised for mobile devices, whilst still being perfectly useable on a PC or Mac. Behind the scenes we have made it much more manageable and are adding a plethora of features for you.

If you are a First Aid Provider and you haven't signed up yet, then why not? A basic listing is free and if you want to really sell your services, the premium option is not very much - one paying enquiry per year will easily cover the cost.

Registration discount offer

Still not convinced? Register and upgrade to a Premium Account before the end of 2015 and we'll even knock some money off for you!

Click here to get going.

Blowing hot and cold

Traditionally, the treatment for strains (muscles and tendons) and sprains (ligaments) has been RICE - Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate.

In recent times, this has been subject to some scrutinizing and there is a body of thought that this might not be best practice. In this article from Healthline, "researchers have been questioning the way these injuries are treated. They've found that the RICE advice came about more from educated guesswork than actual research."

In the medium to longer term, Sports Therapists and Physios have been known to alternate heat and cold, for instance.

No-one is saying that you should currently deviate from currently accepted Good Practice (RICE) as a First Aider - and, indeed, you open yourself up to all sorts of liabilities if you do. However, First Aid does not stand still and, over the years, all sorts of practices come and go as they are either disproven (Revised Sylvester, anyone?) or superseded (tourniquets and ring bandages, for instance). Leeches were in, then they were out. Now, they are back in again in a Hospital environment as their saliva has good clotting attributes.

Good News

Morgan Sindall installs heart attack machines on all sites

Morgan Sindall is installing life-saving defibrillators in all its sites and offices.

The contractor has signed a deal with Cardiac Science to provide Powerheart G5 automated external defibrillators (AEDs).

Morgan Sindall teams are now installing a minimum of one AED at each of its office and site locations across the country.

The kit will be made available to each of Morgan Sindall’s business operations through its internal plant hire division Magnor Plant.

Bad News

Tory MPs block bill to give first aid training to children by talking non-stop until debate ends

Conservative MPs have blocked a bill to bring first aid training to schools by talking non-stop until time to discuss and vote on it ran out.

The Compulsory Emergency First Aid Education (State-Funded Secondary Schools) Bill would have required schools to teach first aid training to children as part of the national curriculum.

Friday, 10 January 2014

4Minutes First Aid's January 2014 Newsletter

In this issue:-

  • Essential First Aid course date
  • 4Minutes can now provide First Aid Cover
  • Top tip of the month
  • Actors / actresses wanted
Essential First Aid - new course date

This is the course for those that want to know something should you need to treat friends or family. Figures show that if you have to deal with a casualty it will be, in all probability, someone that you know.

The first course for 2014 has been put online - make a note for your diary, it's February 10th 0930 - 1230 at the Magnet Leisure Centre in Maidenhead. View Course details and book here:

Remember, places are limited to 12 on a First Come, First Served basis. Also, if you can drag someone else along with you, it will cost you less per person.

If this time of day is not convenient for you, let me know via the Blog (Click on the link at the top) and suggest what days of the week and what times of the day work for you and I'll see what I can do!

4Minutes can now provide First Aid Cover

With immediate effect, we can provide First Aid cover for your event. At the moment, we only provide First Aid, not an ambulance or higher levels of cover, but if you are running a small event and need basic cover, then drop us a line.

Been let down at the last minute? Again, give us a call and we'll see what we can do.

Top Tip of the month

Using cling film to cover a burn once you have cooled it down?

Remember to take off the first couple of turns since it's been rattling round your kitchen drawer for weeks. Then tear off strips and apply them in layers onto the burn. Do Not wrap it round an arm or leg. 

A burnt area will swell, but the cling film will not. If it is wrapped round, it will constrict the blood supply to the end of the arm / leg and cause circulation problems.

If it is applied in layers, then the layers will slide over each other if any swelling occurs.

Remember - cool the burn before applying.

Actors / Actresses wanted

At some point in the spring, I want to make some training videos. It's very much at the concept stage, but if you think you'd like to act as a First Aider or as a casualty, drop me an email via the Contact Form.

It's not a lesson scenario, so we'll go through what you need to do so that you are happy - no pressure.

You will be paid for your time and also get a credit at the end of the clip. However, you will need to sign a model release as it is a commercial venture. Children are more than welcome as well if interested, but their parent / guardian will need to sign a release on their behalf.

That's it for this Newsletter. Happy First Aiding


Monday, 16 September 2013

Who ya gonna call?

A couple of reports earlier this year have found that a) we are normally never more than six foot away from our mobiles and also that we suffer withdrawal symptoms if we are parted from it for too long.

Whilst this smacks of a Society that is increasingly dependent upon, nay, addicted to mobile 'phones, it does have an advantage in that should you be unexpectedly knocked unconscious, the Emergency Services can get hold of someone to call - 'Mum', 'Dad', 'Aunty Maude' for example. Brilliant.

Whoah, hang on a minute. "I've password protected my phone", "I'm an orphan and my parents never had any siblings". OK, the latter is rare, but with concerns about privacy, the former should be adopted by one and all.

Quick aside. Have you switched on tracking on your Apple device? Cool, huh. If it gets nicked, you can track it, lock it and wipe it. That'll teach them. No it won't unless you have also password protected the whole device. Otherwise, savvy thieves will go straight to 'settings' and turn tracking off. IPad lost forever. If you haven't password protected your Apple Device, do it now. It's not foolproof, by the way, but a lot better than an unprotected device.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Dialling for help.Here's some stuff that you should know.

1.  ICE (In Case of Emergency). http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4674331.stm
Dreamt up by a Paramedic, it's amazingly simple. Pick someone that you want to be contacted if you have an emergency and are incapable of communicating your wishes. In your 'phone address book, create a new contact with the name "ICE". Add the contact details to the ICE contact. More than one Contact - use ICE2, ICE3 etc.

Do it. Now.

2. Getting around Phone locks. ICE is all well and good, but what if you lock your 'phone? Luckily Manufacturers are cottoning on. Here are some developments that I am aware of. Feel free to add to the list.

  • Many device manufacturers have provided a mechanism to specify some text to be displayed while the mobile is in the locked state.
  • Some devices let the owner of the phone specify their "In Case of Emergency" contact and also a "Lost and Found" contact. For example, BlackBerry mobiles permit the "Owner" information to be set in the Settings → Options → Owner menu item (source: Wikipedia)
  • IPhone.  You can download apps that can create a iPhone lock screen with emergency details, e.g. "Emergency Info Screen" app
  • IPhone with Siri. Siri works even if the 'phone is locked. Press and hold the button to activate Siri, then say "Siri. Call ICE"
  • Galaxy S3. When the screen is locked there is the option to make an emergency call. If you press that the key pad comes up so you can dial 999. On the bottom left is an icon that looks like a person with a light bulb. If you press this it shows you the group of people who you have assigned as your ICE contacts (SG on Facebook - thanks. Contact me if you want a full credit)
  • Galaxy S3 (again) You can go into settings-lock screen-user information and type in a message there. I now have my name and emergency contract number scroll across the screen when it's locked! (SG again)
  • Nokia & Windows. This would work for all others as well. TYPE "ICE" plus your number into a Word Processor. Photograph it. Set the photograph as your screensaver.
That's my list so far. If you can come up with any others, do let me know.