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Could defibrillators in community pharmacies save lives?


While attending my face-to-face flu jab training in August last year I remember watching the instructor demonstrating CPR to us and explaining how you are not very likely to bring someone back with CPR alone but it’s necessary to keep them alive until someone can get to them with a defibrillator. I had also recently read an article in the press about a pharmacy team who had been able to save the life of a customer who had a cardiac arrest in their pharmacy. Fortunately for them, they were attached to a GP surgery and had been able to get a defibrillator from the surgery.


It started me wondering what we would do in our pharmacy if the same situation occurred. We are not attached to a surgery, we are located on a high street in a suburban area and we did not have access to a defibrillator. We would have to rely on the use of CPR until an ambulance arrived and whilst I’m sure they would get to us quickly, even five minutes would seem like a lifetime in that situation.


I approached my employer and asked him what he thought about our pharmacy raising money to buy a Public Access Defibrillator that would be attached to the outside wall of the shop. He thought it was a great idea and we discussed it with the rest of the staff. They were all very enthusiastic and wanted to get started straight away.


We knew that the local Rotary Club had been involved in fundraising for defibrillators so we contacted one of our customers who was a member for advice. They were brilliant and loaned us an old defibrillator and a resuscitation dummy so that we could create a display in the pharmacy. We drew one of those thermometer diagrams so we could keep filling it in as we raised money and keep everyone informed of where we had got to. We made a collection box out of a TC14 carton and we were good to go!


People started donating straight away. Some put their loose change in and others donating £10 or £20. Many people put something in the box every time they came in the shop.


We organised a bake sale and managed to raise about £200 from that. Customers used their craft skills and donated items for us to sell. We were amazed one day when someone from a local community group walked in with £300 for the fund!


Once people found out what we were doing they offered advice about where we could get further funding from. A local councillor told us we could apply for a ward forum grant which we were going to do but actually didn’t need to in the end as we reached our target without it. The Rotary Club provided an electrician to fit the defibrillator free of charge, which they managed to do at the beginning of March, in between snow showers.


Fundraising for the defibrillator has been a fantastic team effort that got everyone involved. The response from the patients who use our pharmacy was overwhelming and it really feels like the community got behind us. They are really proud of what we have achieved and we got a great reaction when we shared the news on our Facebook page.


Because the defibrillator is attached to the outside of the building and is so visible it also acts as a reminder to everyone who enters the pharmacy of what we have achieved together. I certainly feel a sense of pride when I see it and I’m sure that everyone who donated time or money towards it feels the same.


Amanda Smith is a pharmacy manager and runs Heath pharmacy in Halifax.

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