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Patient deaths prompt ambulance chiefs to look for alternative defibrillators

PUBLISHED

Ambulance chiefs are looking at alternative defibrillators after coroners highlighted confusion over how to correctly use their existing machines.

London Ambulance Service (LAS) Trust has received two warnings from coroners since 2016 after the delayed use of Lifepak 15 defibrillators “significantly reduced” the chances of survival for patients, including a 15-year-old boy.

Coroners found some paramedics were unaware the machines had to be switched from the default “manual” mode to an “automatic” setting.

The first warning came after the death of teenager Najeeb Katende in October 2016. A report by coroner Edwin Buckett said the paramedic who arrived had started the defibrillator in manual mode and did not detect a heart rhythm that was appropriate for administering the device, so it was not used until an advanced paramedic arrived on scene 24 minutes later.

The report stated the defibrillator had been started in manual mode but it needed to be switched to automatic to detect a shockable heart rhythm. The coroner warned LAS that further deaths could occur if action was not taken to prevent similar confusion.

But another warning was issued to the LAS in March this year, following the death of 35-year-old Mitica Marin. Again, a coroner found the paramedic, who was on her first solo shift, had started the machine in manual mode and had not detected a shockable rhythm. It was suggested this caused a four minute delay in the shock being administered.

Coroner Graeme Irvine said this was “not an isolated incident” for LAS and noted the trust had reviewed other cases of delayed defibrillation. They found that the defibrillator’s manual default setting was a “contributing factor” to the delays.

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Source: HSJ, 10 August 2020

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