How good are your first aid skills?
You may have come across stories in the press about the increased pressure that the ambulance service is under, highlighting that the length of time that patients are waiting for an appropriate ambulance response is going up. As the First Aid Training Department at South Western Ambulance Service, we can’t emphasise enough the importance of choosing well when it comes to accessing medical care. On day one of their First Aid at Work training course our trainers ask our students what situations they have been in where they have called for an ambulance. After discussing their experience, we have been asked by many students if they made the right decision in calling 999.
We would say that some of the situations we have heard described would be viewed as an inappropriate use of the ambulance service, however it is clear that they felt it was an emergency and the first thing that comes to mind is to call 999. So why is it that people struggle to make the right choice when it comes to medical help? We believe that most of the time it is down to education. We can’t stress enough the importance of first aid training, whether you are learning first aid to become an appointed person in your workplace, or to have it as skill to help family and friends or even strangers in need.
There is plenty of publicity on and off-line around choosing well, explaining the choices available in a situation where someone becomes ill or is injured. On the NHS website you can search for information, you can call the NHS 111 non-emergency service, and if the situation allows you can also visit your local pharmacy and speak to the pharmacist to get advice. The problem we have found is that what we as paramedics class as a non-emergency situation, may actually feel like an emergency to someone else and their first thought in a panic or unfamiliar situation is not to go to the pharmacy or search through a website, but to call 999.
The ambulance service is stretched and must always deal with life threatening emergencies first, so if as many people as possible can be trained in first aid, they will have the confidence and knowledge to take charge and to assist those who need medical attention. Being the ambulance service, our training is unique as we know how to use CPR and first aid in a real-life emergency and we take from our own experiences when teaching our students. The outcome of more people possessing first aid skills is better for the patients who may need to wait some time before the ambulance arrives and for those who are with them and it also relieves pressure off the ambulance service.
Going back to the students that have been on one of our first aid courses, once they have completed their training it is always clear that they have a different outlook on whether or not the decision for them to call for an ambulance was the right one. They now feel confident in dealing with a medical situation, whether that is treating burns and scalds, choking, wounds and bleeding, shock, injuries or administering first aid to an unconscious casualty.
On a final note, it is really great to hear the news recently that the Government is introducing first aid training into the national curriculum. We are great believers that education is a big part of the answer to making sure that patients get the most appropriate care.
So is it time to look at your own first aid skills? First aid courses are not just about accidents at work or meeting the requirements of current Health and Safety Legislation, they are there to teach people essential skills so that they can confidently treat everyday injuries and illnesses. For more information on first aid courses from South Western Ambulance Service First Aid Training, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0300 369 0350.