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BEEP Doctors founder gives Cumberland Council an update

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Dr. Theo Weston, who founded BEEP Doctors (BASICS Cumbria) in 1994, gave a talk about the service to members of Cumberland Council's Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee at Cumbria House on Thursday (April 18).

He had been invited by Councilor Carni McCarron-Holmes (Maryport North, Labour), the committee chair, because she and other members did not know much about the service's work.

During the presentation, he showed a short video explaining the charity's activities, as well as an interview with the farmer who was injured in the accident.

Dr. Weston said that by deploying a BEEP doctor to the scene, the arm and hand were able to be aligned so that they could be successfully saved following micro-surgery at the RVI in Newcastle.

He said the hand was now 95 per cent functional and added: “It has been an amazing success story. It’s incredibly rewarding work.”

Dr. Weston told members that calls included: traffic accidents; Falls from a height of more than 15 feet; Crushing injury from trapped/impaled victim; knife attacks; Drown; people reported in a fire; firearm preparedness; medical collapse/cardiac arrest; and other calls at the discretion of the screening officer.

He said they had also been called to major incidents such as the Manchester bombing, the Paris terror attack and the Grenfell Tower fire.

Dr. Weston said annual operating costs were between £150,000 and £200,000 and the volunteer doctors had a mix of skills ranging from highly experienced consultants to general practice, emergency department, anesthesia and air ambulance doctors.

He said he received a call last Sunday to ask if he was available to treat a 20-year-old person who suffered a cardiac arrest in the car park of Pets At Home in Penrith – when he was actually in the store located.

Dr. Weston said it must have been the “fastest response time ever,” adding: “It was literally just seconds. We got his heart racing and he was taken to Carlisle. He has fully recovered.”

Councilor John Mallinson (Houghton and Irthington, Conservative) asked about cardiac arrests and Dr. Weston said: “If the heart doesn't work again quickly, they will call us.”

Councilor Helen Davison (Belah, Green Party), herself a former emergency doctor, said she gave “huge praise to all of our first responders” and added: “It’s a shame it’s not part of our NHS.”

She asked if ambulance wait times had an impact on service, and Dr. Weston said the backlog is having an impact. He added: “We are being called out to operations more and more often. We have the impression that they are using us more and more often. We get to work before the ambulance more often.”

Councilor Gillian Troughton (Howgate, Labour) asked whether there was a risk to the service due to a lack of funding or a lack of doctors. She added: “Are these doctors still coming forward?”

Dr. Weston said: “Funding is always a struggle but we seem to be doing quite well with the money. We are not recruiting doctors, but rather encouraging those who are interested in pre-clinical treatment to come forward.”

He explained to members that the success of the service is that as doctors they can provide treatment on site that paramedics cannot. These treatments include:

  • Anesthetics (RSI): drug-assisted advanced airway management;
  • Surgical procedures (such as airways, chest tubes, thoracostomy, thoracotomy, amputations);
  • Central IV lines;
  • taking medications such as ketamine, fentanyl, and magnesium;
  • leveraging broader training and experience;
  • Support and assist paramedics on site;
  • specialties such as burns, children and obstetrics;
  • ultrasound examinations;
  • And blood transfusions, although in Cumbria only air ambulances carry blood supplies.