Trained First-aiders

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 30th March 2010.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Bob Russell Bob Russell Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Defence) 2:30 pm, 30th March 2010

If he will undertake research into the proportion of people attending hospital accident and emergency departments whose treatment could be delivered effectively by a trained first-aider.

Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Minister of State (Public Health), Department of Health

The Department has no plans to do so. First aid is normally given to sustain a patient in an emergency. It is not, of course, a substitute for effective treatment by a health professional.

Photo of Bob Russell Bob Russell Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Defence)

I had hoped for a better answer. May I suggest to the Minister that there is a general acceptance that many people go to accident and emergency departments who should not be there? If society had more trained first-aiders-as my superb ten-minute Bill of 19 November 2003 proposed-there would be less pressure on the NHS budget and on our A and E departments.

Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Minister of State (Public Health), Department of Health

I am, of course, disappointed to disappoint the hon. Gentleman. I am sure that he, like me, would pay tribute to organisations such as the Red Cross and the St. Johns Ambulance service, of which I used to be a member, and to the many first-aiders up and down the country who give their time to provide on-the-spot initial care. However, first aid is not a treatment, as it can involve anything from putting a plaster on to keeping a patient alive until appropriate medical care is given. There is a range of possibilities for people who need treatment: as well as going to A and E, they can consult NHS Direct or visit the many new walk-in centres that the Government have set up. They can also use the extra services provided by pharmacies and out-of-hours doctors, and we are piloting a three-digit number for the future.

Photo of Linda Gilroy Linda Gilroy Labour, Plymouth, Sutton

A and E services are often put under great pressure by peaks in drinking, particularly binge drinking at the weekend. Will my hon. Friend look at how the Plymouth PCT and Derriford hospital have brought a service into the city service to address that issue? The service uses paramedics and others to treat people in situ, thus relieving pressure at the main service point in Derriford hospital.

Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Minister of State (Public Health), Department of Health

I would of course be very happy to look at that service, and I congratulate the local health care services in my hon. Friend's constituency on showing such initiative. What they are doing is exactly what the NHS is about-taking the right services to the right people at the right time.