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Successful life-saving scheme to expand

PUBLISHED: 19:18 08 January 2002 | UPDATED: 11:08 03 March 2010

A LIFE-saving scheme born from tragedy in East Bergholt, has proved so successful that it is to be copied in ten other rural Suffolk communities.

The Heartwatch project, which aims to save the lives of heart attack victims, was started by Sheila Lewry in September last year, after her husband Gordon died, when an ambulance couldn't reach him quickly enough.

A LIFE-saving scheme born from tragedy in East Bergholt, has proved so successful that it is to be copied in ten other rural Suffolk communities.

The Heartwatch project, which aims to save the lives of heart attack victims, was started by Sheila Lewry in September last year, after her husband Gordon died, when an ambulance couldn't reach him quickly enough.

It now involves a team of about 30 volunteers, who have been trained by the East Anglian Ambulance Trust in basic life support and how to use a defibrillator – a device which electrically shocks the heart back into a normal rhythm.

The volunteers are on a rota, and rush to the rescue at a moment's notice, when paged by ambulance control room staff at Norwich.

An ambulance or rapid response paramedic is always sent too.

The aim is to get fast clinical expertise to patients before an ambulance arrives.

The ambulance service is now looking for volunteers in Sudbury including Lavenham, Acton, Cavendish, Long Melford, Boxford, Glemsford, Nayland, Clare, and the Saxmundham area including Leiston and Aldeburgh.

The spread of the schemes follows about 20 paramedics starting to work from community GP surgeries. Paramedics Andrew Barlow based at Sudbury, and Derek Turner at Saxmundham Surgery will run the new volunteer responder schemes and help train them.

More schemes will follow across Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire in future.

Ambulance services are currently required to reach 75 per cent of life-threatening 999 calls within eight minutes.

But with more than 25,000 life-threatening calls a year, that still means more than 6,000 people will not receive care within eight minutes.

The chances of surviving a heart attack after eight minutes, without basic life support and defibrillation, are much less.

In November, the Evening Star told how the Heartwatch team from East Bergholt won praise from EAAT bosses after it got to all six of its 999 calls within the national response time target.

Mrs Lewry, who runs the scheme, said: "It only takes a few hours of peoples' time a week, and it's a very worthwhile thing to do for the community.

"It's comforting for people to know that should the worst happen there is someone round the corner with the skills and equipment to do some good."

Paul Sutton, director of operations for the EAAT, said: "There's no doubt it could prove a lifesaver if somebody in the village were to suffer a cardiac arrest."

He said the schemes complemented rather than replaced ambulances, but added: "As well as responding on our behalf, these volunteers help improve the publics' understanding of the importance of a fast response to cardiac arrests, which can only be a good thing.

"The more people out there with basic life support training, the more people will survive these conditions, which is the ultimate aim."

For more details telephone Andrew Barlow on 01787 372932 or 01787 379181, or Derek Turner on 07780 998964 or 01728 602426.

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