How to Save a Life Using Just Your Hands

At 8am on Tuesday morning, junior hospital doctors were due to take industrial action. Just for one day, they’d only treat emergencies. 

FreeImages.com/Carlos Paes

That’s now off, pending further talks. But does the average Joe know what an emergency is? I can’t help speculating. My experience of working in A & E suggests otherwise. Yes, there are heart attacks, car crashes, and fractured femurs galore.

Alas, there’s also no shortage of folks who pitch up for a second opinion on a runny nose, or who demand to know, at 4am, why they’ve had hiccups for two years.

Tragically, the reverse is also true: “I thought she was just sleeping.”

FreeImages.com/Johan Graterol POSED BY MODEL

If it’s that hard for the man in the street to recognize an emergency for what it is, it’s even more challenging to deal with it.

Forgive me for going all serious today, but research for St John Ambulance shows that almost four fifths of parents (79%) wouldn’t know what to do if their baby was choking to death. That’s despite it being a major fear for 58% of parents. In fact no less than 40% have witnessed choking. 

So kudos to those who’ve learned what to do, like the two people who saved a tot’s life in Hampstead a few weeks ago.

As you can imagine, the toddler’s mother is incredibly grateful to the passers-by who leapt in and did CPR. They’re unusual, because most people, as the research showed, wouldn’t have a clue.

We hear a lot about defibrillators in public places. Of course they’re a great idea. But while defibrillators help save adult lives, they’re not that useful for a baby or child. That’s because most little ones have breathing emergencies, not cardiac ones.

The good news is that their lives can be saved with nothing more than your hands, once you know how.

FreeImages.com/Helmut Gevert

So I wonder why basic life support isn’t taught more in schools.  And why parents and carers don’t often bother to learn how to save their own child’s life.

About five years ago, I was involved in Tesco’s BabySafe campaign. There were free sessions around the country designed to teach parents, carers, and others the basics of dealing with common but serious emergencies like choking and burns. People left with basic skills and the confidence to use them.

You can learn to save a baby or child’s life from the British Red Cross or St John Ambulance

These organizations have online information too, but it’s so much better to do a hands-on course if you can.

FreeImages.com/Denise Docherty

 

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Why Does Car Insurance Cost So Much?

Go on, guess.

My high premiums aren’t because I prang my car a lot, or make other people have accidents. Though there was that crash I caused in 1975 or so, when I collided with a Morris Traveller van and managed to remove some of its wooden trim. The owner glued it back on. Total cost of the repair: £1.50.

I don’t indulge in James Bond-esque 200 mph jaunts the wrong way up dual carriageways, let alone launch my car off the tops of buildings. So it’s a mystery to me why Sheila’s Wheels wants to relieve me of huge wodges of money on an annual basis.

But now I can thank a certain coach driver for leading me to the explanation as to why car insurance costs so much.

On a blisteringly hot August afternoon, said coach opts to use the offside lane of the A41 and hits my car from the side.

The lucky thing is that only my wing mirror is damaged, though the cat, imprisoned in a basket on the passenger seat, seems a bit miffed at the delay as the coach driver and I stop to exchange details.

cat in travel basket

It seems pretty clear-cut. The other guy has wandered far enough into my lane to break something off my car.

Yet this minor damage then takes three months to sort out.

The driver tells me he works for United Busways. That’s the first problem, because he doesn’t. He used to work for them, but, after a couple of phone calls, I learn he’s now with National Express, despite what it said on his bus.

back view of coach

I can only find 0871 phone numbers for National Express, but, after one long expensive call, someone refers me to a depot in Hertfordshire. Two more calls later, nobody seems that interested, though one of the people I speak to lets slip the name of the bus company’s insurer, Gallagher Bassett.

Now I am on to something. I speak to Gallagher Bassett and learn that the driver has logged a report of the accident. There will be CCTV footage too, to be examined in the next few days.

I have spent over an hour on the phone to six different people, but it sounds like a resolution is in sight.

But I was wrong. If you want to cut to the chase, it’s in bold near the bottom of this post.

Someone from a branch of theirs called CAA promises to arrange an inspection at a time convenient to me.  “It’s only a wing mirror,” I say, and offer to email a photo of the damage, but apparently an engineer must inspect it in person.

Nothing happens. Six days later, I chase the insurance company. Apologies for the delay and all that, they say. There’s no sign of the CCTV yet, so they will chase the bus company as well as CAA and get back to me.

That’s another 15 minutes on the phone.

Rebecca from CAA does get in touch, and tells me that someone from Hoopers Engineers in Liverpool will come to inspect my car. “It’s only a wing mirror,” I point out again.

VW Golf wing mirror

Michelle from Hoopers does arrange an inspection, which isn’t ideal as I end up missing a lunch appointment, but I want my new wing mirror sometime soon.

The engineer from Hoopers spends around 20 minutes or more studying my car thoroughly, including its mileage, chassis number, and the height of the mirror above the ground.

The days later still nothing, so I ring the insurer. The next half a dozen phone calls over a period of a few weeks are much the same and by now I know the claims reference number by heart. Yes, the CCTV footage still is awaited. They will chase the bus company again. Yes it can take a while, but no, it doesn’t usually take this long. They’ll contact them today and get back to me.

On September 22, six weeks from the accident, there is a breakthrough. I’m told the CCTV is “being sent out” and would I please give them a couple more days. One detail bothers me. Aren’t all video recordings digitized?  Apparently not.

A week later, still nothing. Four further calls in the next week or so establish that the CCTV recording failed. It was never “being sent out.” However, on the basis that the damage was not substantial, the insurance company offers to settle the claim.

I can confirm that as a result of the failed CCTV we would be happy to settle your claim on a Without Prejudice Basis as per our repair team CAA’s quoted estimate of £360.”  

I still have to go through their approved repairer rather than my local VW garage which happens to be within walking distance, but no matter. No further estimate will be needed, and I will soon be driving around with a mirror that isn’t held on with parcel tape.

wing mirror held on with parcel tape

Unfortunately the approved repairer insists on drawing up their own estimate anyway, despite the previous estimate and my mantra “It’s only a wing mirror.”

It takes two goes to get the estimator here, then he doesn’t turn up when he said he would because he has a hospital appointment that morning.  When he finally arrives in the afternoon, he studies the car and the chassis number again.

The repair is booked for November 5. I consider setting off fireworks to celebrate.

About two hours after the appointed time on the day, Matt from Fix Auto arrives to collect my car. I had imagined two guys in a car, one of whom would drive my car back to the garage.

This is what Matt shows up in, complete with flashing lights.

recovery vehicle

It seems a bit over-the-top. As I point out to Matt, it is only a wing mirror.

My car did not return the same day as promised, but the next day, again with Matt and his recovery vehicle.

To sum up, getting the broken wing mirror replaced took twelve weeks and cost around £250 for the repair, plus 24 phone calls, two estimates, and two trips in a recovery truck. If you assume that each call costs a modest £25 for each of the participants in the call, the estimators’ visits come in at £100 each, and the recovery truck costs £80 per round trip, it comes to a total of over £1,800. That’s a very restrained guesstimate and the true cost could be much higher because there are so many different people who add little value but still cost money.  

It was only a frigging wing mirror!   Just imagine the figures had whiplash or another injury been part of the claim.

But the madness doesn’t stop there. Driver Matt told me that a coach had hit him on the way over to me, damaging the side of his truck…

Wonder why I pursued this claim myself? It’s because when my previous car was broken into, the insurance company insisted on recording it as ‘your accident.’ I tried explaining that I wasn’t even there at the time, that a petty thief who breaks into a locked garage and then smashes a windscreen doesn’t do this accidentally. It is pretty much on purpose, I’d say. But I used the company to make a claim, so they recorded it as my accident. Besides, I thought this claim would be easy to sort out. After all, only a bloody wing mirror.

But a very expensive one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Could a Doctor Think of Going on Strike?

Best job in the world, thinks Geoff, at least when he’s not inspecting verrucas.

While Geoff is a fictional GP, he’s uncannily similar to a lot of real family doctors.

Right now he’s unwrapping a cheese sandwich and feeling grateful he’s not a hospital doctor facing life or death decisions.

Because any minute now BMA ballots will be plopping through their doors, asking whether they’d take industrial action.

Litmann type stethoscope

He’s not fond of strikes and instinct tells him doctors shouldn’t have them. If striking makes a perceptible impact, people get hurt. If it makes no impact, the strikers look stupid. Lose-lose, in Geoff’s book.

But what else can junior hospital doctors do?

By anyone’s clock, 7am to 10pm six days a week can’t be a standard working day. Geoff’s not sure how it squares with the European Working Time Directive which requires 11 hours rest a day. About 10 years ago the EWTD began to include junior hospital doctors. He recalls that opt-outs have to be voluntary. Is Jeremy Hunt aware of this?

It’s not about the money, say junior doctors. They’re not “trainee doctors”, by the way, despite the way the press describes them. They’re fully qualified members of the medical profession, ready, willing and (most of all) able, to resuscitate the dying or resect metres of gangrenous bowel as appropriate. 

Jeremy Hunt doesn’t look a bad guy.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt

He’s just wrong, thinks Geoff. That mortality paper in the BMJ has a lot to answer for. It showed that being admitted to hospital at weekends was linked with a significantly increased risk of in-hospital death. Lots more of them would be acutely ill, so that makes sense.

The same paper also showed that being in hospital at the weekend was associated with a reduced risk of death!

So where the fuck did people get the idea that having more doctors on duty would prevent those excess deaths? Geoff hurls his sandwich wrapper into the bin.

Being self-interested, as everyone is at heart, Geoff worries that the proposed new contract for junior hospital doctors will affect general practice too. It would imposes a drop of 40% in GP trainee salaries. Those ARE trainees, by the way. They’re doctors training to be GPs, and there aren’t enough of them as it is.

More importantly, the new contract jeopardizes patient safety because it removes the safeguards which protect doctors from working dangerously long hours.

scalpel

No wonder many people believe the proposed contract puts the future of the NHS at risk.

Does all that make striking a good game plan? Doctors last took action in 1975, well before his time as he’s only been qualified 15 years.  

Recently a whopping 95% who took part in a Guardian poll answered yes to the question: Should junior doctors strike over the government’s proposed contract?  He thinks there were 28,000 or so people polled, nearly as many people as there are junior hospital doctors. But obviously he can’t find the article now, what with the winter care plan, new advice about FGM, and an avalanche of other vital information.

It’s the baby clinic this afternoon in Geoff’s practice. Britain has one of the best immunisation programmes in the world, he likes to think. Geoff heads into the waiting room, beams at the parents, and wonders how long the NHS has left to live.

tombstone

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You may also like:

GMC advice for doctors in England considering industrial action.

The doctors’ 1975 industrial action.