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Hailing a life saver; why some cabbies are now carrying defibrillators

Paramedics have taught cabbies to perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and fitted their black cabs with defibrillators as part of a six-month pilot scheme in partnership with the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association.

At the launch of the partnership, Steve McNamara, General Secretary of the LTDA, explained: “This scheme came about because taxi drivers wanted to make a difference. They help people all day long and take great pride in our city, and this initiative takes us that bit further. Cabbies already go the extra mile to help look after Londoners, but this life-saving training is already making a big difference, giving them the confidence, skills and equipment they need to act in a medical emergency.”

London Ambulance Services’ Lynsey Grant was the training officer responsible for making sure the drivers knew what they were doing. “We’ve trained 30 drivers in life-saving techniques and 15 of those now have defibrillators in their cabs. All the drivers have downloaded the GoodSAM app alerting them to a medical emergency while the ambulance is still on its way,” she said. “The drivers were such an enthusiastic bunch and I really admire them because they were taking a day out of their work in order to train to help people. Taxis are not going to take the place of ambulances but these trained drivers can still do so much before the ambulance arrives. Doing something, such as chest compression, is always going to be better than doing nothing at all.”

In the case of cardiac arrest every minute counts. The chances of a person surviving a heart attack decrease by about 10 per cent for every minute lost before they are treated. More than half the patients who are defibrillated by members of the public before the arrival of ambulance crews survive to be discharged from hospital.

Cabbie Paul Tippett decided to volunteer because he had had a previous experience when someone collapsed on the street and he didn’t have the basic knowledge to be able to help. He thinks it is an amazing scheme and is hoping it will be rolled out to more drivers in the future.

Fellow cabbie, Dave Mailes adds: “By the very nature of what we do as taxi drivers, we tend to be where there are the most people, so if we can save one life I think that’s a family that isn’t shattered. Our training has been wonderful. Even though it was light-hearted there were people there passionate about wanting to make a difference. Now that we’re trained it gives us the confidence to think “yes, we can do this” because we’ve already done it so many times in the classroom.”

The pilot is due to end in October, when a decision will be made on whether to roll out the scheme.

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