School children swap the classroom for a lesson is lifesaving

Future generations now better equipped to save lives

Children as young as eight saw life through the eyes of an ambulance dispatcher when they were faced with life and death scenarios and asked to choose who should get an ambulance first.

The children were faced with a woman in labour, someone having a heart attack and someone with a cracked fingernail, and had to decide whether the ambulance response should be ‘fast, slow or not at all’.

The exercise was part of a long running partnership between North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) and the West View Project, a voluntary funded youth organisation based in Hartlepool.

Having previously spent two days visiting the ambulance service in March and April, groups of school children who are part of the project’s Junior Inspectors programme had already learned how to stop a person choking, what happens when you ring 999 and why NHS111 might be a good place to start if you don’t know which health service you need.

They had also received a tour of the Trust’s Emergency Operations Centre, where the region’s 999 and 111 calls are taken, and got to see the inner workings of an ambulance.

The Hartlepool Schools Conference, held at Hartlepool Sports Dome on 27 June, gave even more young people the chance to learn about their local ambulance service and how to save a life, with around 200 school children taking part in group exercises with NEAS.

The different scenarios included: someone with dust in their eye, someone who had drank bleach, a woman in labour, someone drowning, someone with a cracked fingernail, someone with chest pain, someone who was choking, and someone who was bleeding heavily.

As well as deciding what priority – if any – each patient received, the children also had the chance to have a go at CPR and were taught about the consequences of hoax calls.

The teachers were also informed about the benefits of installing defibrillators within their schools and the importance of teaching CPR to their children.

One of the members of staff leading the sessions was NEAS clinical care manager Richard Ilderton.

He said: “These scenarios are just some of the incidents our staff are faced with on a daily basis, prioritising where we send our resources first to help those most in need.

“The kids were really engaged and came up with some really good ideas. When we gave them the options, you could really see them thinking the scenarios through. They also realised that some illnesses could warrant different responses depending on their severity. I think it reinforced what some of them already knew but for others it really gave them food for thought.

“It’s really important for children to know what an appropriate 999 call is and understand what the chain of survival for CPR because you’re more likely to save a life if you get someone who’s willing to start CPR.

“Hartlepool residents can be rest assured that their future generations are better equipped to deal with medical emergencies. Hopefully we now have a group of young people who will tell their peers that it’s not scary to start CPR and they can help us save more lives.”

Rebecca Ferguson, senior participation worker for the West View Project, said: “The aim of the conference is to bring together primary schools in Hartlepool with representation from their student councils to explore areas of particular interest to them.

“The forums meet on a termly basis and planned this year's conference since the beginning of the school year. The themes chosen this year were safety and the environment as those representing student councils felt these were particularly important and current, topical issues.”

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Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

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