December 2012

Defibrillators in GP surgeries would save hundreds of lives annually

Fri, 7 December 12 09:00

Image [L-R]: Professor Gerard Bury, Professor of General Practice at UCD School of Medicine & Medical Science - Mary Headon, Administrator, UCD Centre for Emergency Medical Science - Mairead Egan, Manager, UCD Centre for Emergency Medical Science - Dr John Dowling, North West Immediate Care Project

The MERIT project, based at UCD Centre for Emergency Medical Science, suggests that hundreds of lives could be saved in Ireland each year if GPs are equipped with defibrillators and trained to use them to intervene rapidly when someone has sudden cardiac arrest.

The findings are described in the latest edition of the HRB’s Picture of Health 2012, published on 6th December 2012.

The HRB-funded study evaluated the impact of having a defibrillator and trained healthcare professionals in place. The research was based on the five-year MERIT* project, which equipped 500 GPs with defibrillators and provided appropriate training to use the device when dealing with a sudden cardiac arrest due to a heart complication called ventricular fibrillation.

'We know how to fix ventricular fibrillation but fixing it is completely and utterly time dependent,' explains Professor Gerard Bury, Professor of General Practice at University College Dublin, who led the study.  

'Nationally, survival rates for a sudden cardiac arrest if it happens out of hospital are one in 20. But this research shows that the availability and proper use of defibrillators by GPs, increases these survival rates 3 or 4 fold,' says Professor Bury. 'Fundamentally what we have demonstrated is the extraordinary success of the implementation of a scheme like MERIT. And predominantly the events that we have recorded have been in small towns and rural Ireland, where traditionally outcomes have been worse.

In Ireland, an estimated three to five thousand people die each year from sudden cardiac events that may not be fatal if treated in time. This simple measure could save hundreds of those people.

The cost of around €4,000 per GP for equipment and training must be seen as a positive investment in terms of saving lives, notes Professor Bury. 'This sort of structured intervention and support, allied with the strength of general practice can make a huge difference at local level,' he says. 'Every GP in the country needs a defibrillator.'

The annual Picture of Health publication highlights, in non-technical language, recent and exciting developments arising from Irish health research funded by the HRB. Research featured includes projects that seek to improve patient care, search for better treatments and innovate in health policy and practice.

Enda Connolly, Chief Executive at the HRB says;

'The government’s investment in research must be recognised as a vital step to encourage innovation and help reinvigorate the economy. Researchers must see this investment as a vote of confidence in their ability to deliver change and embrace the opportunity to continue to demonstrate that the work that they do has real impact.

In the past few years, the HRB has taken a strategic decision to focus our funding on research that has a positive impact on people’s health, patient care and the health service. The outcomes highlighted in this report show the difference our funded researchers are making in these areas.'

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