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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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.