A COMMUNITY campaigner who helped promote the introduction of lifesaving defibrillators across Saddleworth has highlighted a “weakness” in the system.

Alan Roughley, a former Oldham and Saddleworth parish councillor, raised concerns in the wake of a real-life drama in his village of Denshaw when a cyclist was saved by a defibrillator after collapsing outside a pub two weeks ago.

Currently, emergency call handlers direct people to known defibrillators in a 200-metre radius. If one is not available in that distance CPR can be given until an ambulance clinician arrives with a lifesaving machine.

“If someone is unconscious as a result of a heart attack it is vital the patient receives treatment within four minutes for a complete recovery,” said Mr Roughley, chair of the Denshaw village community.

“The call handler will instruct the caller to begin CPR immediately - they will be told how - and person who reported the call send someone else to bring a defibrillator.

“The caller is asked for the postcode for the nearest premises and if a publicly available defibrillator is in 200 metres, the entry code for the defibrillator box is given.

“This is fine in a town where each unique postcode only covers a few houses but here in Saddleworth the same postcode can be issued for premises as much as half a mile apart.”

In the recent drama, the quick-witted landlady of The Junction remembered the location of the defibrillator at the village hall and brought it to the scene.

Mr Roughley declared: “The code was not given during the first 999 call on this occasion, though the distance between the Village Hall and the Junction Inn cannot be more than a few yards more.

“The landlady knew there was a defibrillator available but had to make a second 999 call to be given the code to open the box.

“She was able to bring the defibrillator, it was used and the patient will hopefully make an excellent recovery.

“But, had she not known exactly where the defibrillator was sited or the cyclist had had his heart attack 400 yards away up Rochdale Road, it would have been another story.

“There seems to be a weakness in the system. If CPR is being given, that extends the golden period, during which a defibrillator can be brought?

“Even if the incident were notionally a mile from where a defibrillator is kept it would seem practical to send someone in a car to fetch it, as the patient is being kept alive by CPR?”

But a spokesperson for NWAS said: “Cardiac arrest is a category one emergency and therefore we will always send the nearest and next available resource and the call will be deemed a high priority.

“We also wouldn’t encourage people to get in their car and drive to get a defibrillator.

“This is a very high pressured and upsetting situation and under this type of pressure, people might not take appropriate care when driving which would put themselves and others at risk.

“Under these types of conditions, we believe continued CPR until the ambulance arrives would be more effective.

“This is why NWAS would like to see more defibrillators in public locations so that there is never one more than 200 metres away.”

Mr Roughley added: “Many public defibrillators are sited away from a main road and a simple indicator sign attached to a lamp post on the main road means locals and visitors can quickly retrieve them, saving yet more lives.

“This would expand the reach of the ambulance service at little or no additional cost.Oldham Council should install signs on lampposts showing the locations of defibrillators.”

@ Local organisations or charities who would like to develop an accessible AED scheme can contact NWAS Cardiac Smart Team who help to provide support. If you already have a defibrillator you can register it with them at: www.cardiacsmart.nwas.nhs.uk/tell-us-about-your-defib.