29 May 2013

S4M-06362 Automatic External Defibrillators

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Elaine Smith): The final item of business today is a members’ business debate on motion S4M-06362, in the name of Margaret Mitchell, on automatic external defibrillators in Scotland. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I am sure that it is a great relief to members that the Minister for Public Health is here to respond to the debate. As I recall, he was a member of Scotland’s emergency services when he was a member of a mountain rescue team. I am sure that he is more than adequately trained, should any of us require first responder intervention.

This is an excellent and opportune debate. The motion is comprehensive and covers many of the bases. The key underlying point is that early intervention dramatically improves the likelihood of a good outcome in the long term.

Nanette Milne and Malcolm Chisholm talked about the related intervention of cardiopulmonary resuscitation. We should say a little more about that, because as anyone will know who has been trained to do CPR, as I have—albeit that I must be incredibly rusty now—it is easy to watch and difficult to do. A person must have the confidence to put their full weight into CPR as they press on the chest of the person who is suffering a heart attack. They must be prepared to break ribs, if that is what it takes. In older people, that can be a consequence.

In light of that, we must consider the practical training that is given to people if they are to administer CPR. It is not a question of having a bit of paper that tells one how to do it; people need to realise that it needs a lot of physical effort. I hope that we tak tent of that. I am sure that Laura and Paul Macadam-Slater, who are trained first-aiders, are familiar with the issue, which is partly why CPR is mentioned in the motion.

There are other, simple things that people should be trained to do at school. For example, youngsters should know how to get someone into the recovery position. Such an intervention can be decisive in ensuring a person’s survival, given that vomiting can be associated with a heart attack and someone who is in the wrong position can drown in their own vomit. People should be taught the recovery position.

I represent many of Scotland’s fishermen. These days, a large proportion of fishing boats carry AEDs, which are vastly easier to use than the kind of equipment that Dr Milne used, which came in some time after my father graduated in medicine.

There is a small personal element to this debate. In 1930, long before I was born, my grandfather had a heart attack on what was then the lower station in Dunfermline, and that was the end of him. I would like to think that if that had happened today, CPR or intervention via an AED would have meant that he could have lived beyond his 68 years.

I hope that the debate stimulates wider interest and that we hear interesting things from the minister. I also hope that the minister will not have to make a personal intervention and use his previous training.


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