Village Emergency System (VETS) – Further information

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From Martin Fagan – Secretary Community Heartbeat Association secretary@communityheartbeat.org.uk 

I think it is important to understand where VETS fits in your village.

Firstly, the South West Ambulance service has an activation radius of only 200m on sending anyone to fetch a defibrillator. In addition they will not send anyone to get the defibrillator if they are on their own with the patient, or if the caller is a child under 12 years. This means effectively about half the village of Chedworth.

In order to overcome this, CHT offers the VETS system, whereby there is another number you can call to help get the defibrillator to you in an emergency through the use of volunteers, and help with chest compressions. This system works and works well. Lives have been saved because of this.

The ambulance service does not offer any solution to this problem, and despite this solution being part of the 2015 RC(UK) and ERC guidelines, have continued to refuse to activate the number. West Midlands Ambulance, by comparison, will call the VETS number. Yes, it is correct that unless you have a second telephone, or you use the second line on your mobile, then theoretically if the 999 operator stays on the line with you, it makes it difficult to call the VETS number. But what other choice do you have?

You can always ask the 999 operator to make the call for you (they cannot refuse if is life saving situation), or you can place them on hold, or more likely (despite what the Ambulance service tells you) they will place you on hold or call you back in many instances. This gives you the opportunity to get help. The role of the ambulance service is to help save lives, and refusing to allow a caller in distress to call for help, is not helping the situation, and is not best practice.

We are in conversation with SWAST and several MPs are also on the case, and also NHS England. Many other villages in the SWAST area have written to the CEO of SWAST, and it would certainly help for more to do this. This is about saving lives, and thus we offer in partnership with the Parish Council, a way lives can be saved in Chedworth. It is never 100%, but would you rather be with or without this service, and a team of volunteers who can respond to be with you, when you need help the most?

I think the original Chatter article was a little too scary, and failed to approach this from the objective position. But hopefully this will clarify a couple of the issues raised. We would be very happy to come and do more defibrillator training in the village, and we can also offer a Community First Aid 3hrs Saturday morning sessions as well. The Community Heartbeat Trust charity www.communityheartbeat.org.uk .

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