Hail a life-saver... Black taxi drivers given defibrillators to help save heart patients

Taxi drivers are having their cabs fitted with defibrillators to help them save Londoners who suffer cardiac arrest.

A trial set up by London Ambulance Service gives black cab drivers basic life-saving training and instructions on how to use the electronic devices - writes standard.co.uk

They are alerted to nearby emergencies by the GoodSAM app and can provide immediate help if they arrive before an ambulance. They are trained in how to perform CPR chest compressions and how to place the defibrillator.

If the device detects that the patient’s heart is in a “shockable rhythm”, it allows an electrical charge to be delivered. Survival rates rise from less than 10 per cent to more than 50 per cent when “good samaritans” use defibrillators.

However, fewer than 100 attempts a year are made in London, despite the provision of about 5,000 defibrillators in public locations. Every minute that a cardiac arrest patient waits for medical help decreases their chances of survival by about 10 per cent.

Thirty members of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association are involved in the six-month trial. The app alerts medically trained “first responders” to emergencies, such as someone collapsing.

Fifteen cabbies have been given a defibrillator, while the other 15 will be guided by the app to the nearest one. Garrett Emmerson, LAS chief executive, said the aim was not to replace emergency crews but to capitalise on the willingness of cab drivers to help. The scheme, which will be trialled until October, was suggested by the LTDA.

Mr Emmerson said: “The idea is to test the benefits of having a defib in the cab, as opposed to just using the public access ones. If it’s successful, the idea would be to roll it out. Taxi drivers are a knowledgeable group of people. They can find themselves in a situation where they are closer to patients than we are.”

LAS crews tried to resuscitate 4,448 people in 2016/17. Of those, 1,307 made it alive to hospital and 415 were discharged — a 9.5 per cent survival rate.

Cabbie Paul Tippett, 51, from Waltham Abbey, was inspired to take part in the trial after resuscitating a passenger. He decided to buy his own defibrillator after an incident in Balham, where a woman collapsed but he felt powerless to help.

Several months ago, prior to the LAS scheme, a passenger collapsed in his cab.

Mr Tippett said: “He had an underlying heart condition that made his heart stop for a few seconds. The defibrillator helped his heart go back into its natural rhythm. The absolutely wonderful news is that he is still with us today.”

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