Health Minister Edwin Poots today announced the development of a regional community resuscitation strategy for Northern Ireland.
Each year in Northern Ireland approximately 1,300 cardiac arrests occur outside a hospital environment and unfortunately fewer than 10 per cent of people who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest will survive to be discharged from hospital.
Emergency Life Support (ELS) skills are the key set of actions needed to keep someone alive until professional help arrives. It includes performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), dealing with choking, serious bleeding, how to put someone in the recovery position and helping someone who may be having a heart attack.
Evidence suggests that where there is a high proportion of the population trained in ELS skills the survival rate for those who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest are higher than in areas where the proportion of the population trained in ELS skills is low.
In the Northern Ireland Omnibus Survey of January 2010, 26 per cent of respondents answered ‘yes’ to the question ‘Have you received training in CPR in the last five years?’.
The Health Minister said: “I have asked my Chief Medical Officer to arrange for a working group to be established to develop a community resuscitation strategy for Northern Ireland, aimed at coordinating existing resources to maximise the number of individuals trained in ELS skills. The working group will be chaired by the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and will include representatives from my department, HSC organisations and community and voluntary bodies involved in resuscitation training.”
The Minister added: “While I am fully aware of all the good work that is already taking place across Northern Ireland by the Health and Social Care Trusts, and a number of voluntary organisations such as the British Heart Foundation, ABC for Life, the Red Cross and St John Ambulance. I am conscious however that resources both within the health service and from the voluntary bodies are finite, and therefore we need to make the best possible use of the resources that are currently available to ensure we increase the number of people trained in ELS skills.
“I believe a Northern Ireland community resuscitation strategy will help to focus a drive to increase the number of people, of all ages, trained in ELS skills and to coordinate existing resources to achieve this. The working group will be asked to complete the project and produce the strategy by October 2013.”
Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said: “I have no doubts about the need to extend ELS training across Northern Ireland which should help save more lives. We need to, and we can, achieve greater coverage in communities, schools and workplaces throughout Northern Ireland. A community resuscitation strategy will help to achieve this through statutory, voluntary and community sector organisations working in partnership and developing new approaches to ELS training.”