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Published on December 4, 2018 | by Alastair Gilmour

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Stand clear

We’re getting used to seeing small yellow and green boxes sprouting up, fixed to the walls of public buildings with more and more of them outside pubs.

Defibrillators are life-savers and our North East licensed premises haven’t been slow to pick up on them – not that there’s any more risk of someone having a heart attack outside the Red Lion than they have at Sainsbury’s, but if there’s one of these devices at a pub, chances are most people will remember where one is in an emergency.

A defibrillator is a small electronic device designed to allow minimally trained people to provide lifesaving defibrillation – electric shock to the heart – to victims of sudden cardiac arrest. It applies a brief pulse of electrical current allowing the heart’s natural electrical system to resume control.

The Ship Inn at Wylam, Northumberland, and the Railway Tavern in Rowlands Gill, Tyne & Wear, for example, have had them installed outside recently. It’s part of their community service.

The Ship Inn’s Paul Johnson says: “We had ours installed in October – hopefully we’ll never have to use it. We feel they are incredible and potentially life saving machines. We have read that places such as Amsterdam they save 20% of people who go into cardiac arrest. Unfortunately here on the North East, we only save 5% of people. The main reason behind that is the lack of automated external defibrillator (AED) machines.

“Both my partner Kelly grew up in rural communities and from living in Weardale, Kelly had always noticed that all the pubs there have AED machines. Also when we lived in Cornwall, we noticed that they were visible in most towns and villages. They are fully automated, they talk you through the process, so anyone can use them.

“Moving back to Wylam – we took the Ship Inn in July 2017 – we always wanted to be a real hub in the community and be a part of a village that we both love living in, but we noticed the lack of a machine here and in surrounding villages.

“With just a will to do some good, we decided to hold an event and raise money towards one. Thanks to incredible local support we managed to raise enough on the night and purchase the AED machine. We must also thank Dr Michael Norton from Cardioproof UK who has helped us with it.”

Paul has arranged for The North East Ambulance Service to take First Aid and defibrillator training on Saturday December 8 so members of the public can learn about saving lives.

Stephen Olver, owner of the Railway Tavern at Rowlands Gill is in complete agreement with Paul Johnson’s approach. He says: “It was something I’d been thinking about for a long time, even before I got the pub last year which was then the ideal opportunity. There wasn’t a public defibrillator in the village, only one in the school and in the doctors’ surgery as far as I can remember, but they were only open when these places were open. I thought I’d put one outside the pub so it was available 24/7.

“They cost up to £1,500 so we did some fundraisers with football cards, live music events and comedy shows and got a lot of money donated from local businesses – very decent donations.

“Happily we’ve never had to use it; it’s never been out the box. The North East Ambulance Service gave a free training session and the pub was packed full of local people learning about the equipment by using dummies and doing CPR. Actually, you can’t really go wrong, the instructions are all there.”

Meanwhile, Stephen reports: “We’ve had a decent first year at the Railway Tavern; it’s very hard work and having a knee operation in the middle of the year didn’t really help. We rotate local beers on cask, using as many local breweries as we can – and everybody seems very happy with that.”

It’s heart-warming to hear.


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Alastair Gilmour



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