A public event to ‘demystify’ what goes on in a specialist heart hospital attracted more than 160 staff, patients and members of the public, including over a hundred students from local schools, keen to improve their resuscitation skills. Harefield Hospital’s annual event Your Heart Hospital, now in its 13th year, was held for the first time in partnership with the British Cardiovascular Society (BCS). BCS President Professor Simon Ray welcomed delegates.
Your Heart Hospital was also a multisite event this year with Manchester Heart Centre, with experts there running the same course with local clinicians.
Dr Miles Dalby, consultant cardiologist at Harefield Hospital, responsible for launching the event in 2006, hopes it will continue to be rolled out across the country in future years.
Dr Dalby said: “Central to our event has been to demystify what goes on in a heart hospital like ours. We want to enhance an understanding, within the community, about the causes, prevention and treatment of heart disease.
“A crucial part of the day has been to teach practical, yet essential, resuscitation skills using simulated scenarios. Eighty per cent of cardiac arrests happen in the home, so a patient’s first contact is not with one of our specialists but rather a family member or a member of the public. If that person can give cardio pulmonary resuscitation immediately, the chances of survival are significantly increased.”
Delegates heard about the latest techniques and treatments in heart attack treatment, watched a live simulation exercise of an emergency scenario, and took part in CPR workshops and lectures. The day offered an insight into the care delivered at Harefield’s leading heart attack centre and highlighted some of the innovative techniques used as alternatives to open-heart surgery.
The date chosen for the event was Restart A Heart Day, an annual initiative which aims to improve the low numbers of people surviving out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, and practical sessions were a key focus of the day, ensuring attendees left confident in CPR skills that could one day help them save a life.
Professor William Toff, Professor in cardiology at the University of Leicester, gave a presentation on ‘Why we should all be trained as lifesavers’, highlighting the importance of embedding CPR training in the school curriculum in order to raise the cardiac arrest survival rate.
Harefield consultant cardiologists Dr Shouvik Haldar and Dr Rob Smith led sessions on heart rhythm and heart valve problems and treatments, before consultant nurse in cardiology Alison Pottle led resuscitation practical sessions.
Local student Anan Salim from St Helen’s School Northwood said: “The event was informative and it has really enriched my studies. The staff have been so generous with their time and have talked to us in a language we understand. I feel like I know so much more about the heart and can appreciate what a complex organ it is.
“Previously I would not have felt comfortable giving CPR, but after this event I’m comfortable I have the right skills.”
Louis Ertl from St Clement Danes School echoed this: “The event did exactly what I had hoped it would do, and more. I’m thinking about entering the medical field in the future, and to learn more about what cardiology involves, the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest, and how to perform CPR properly was fascinating - though I hope never to have to use it on anyone!’
Minoo Thobhani, work experience coordinator at Merchant Taylors’ School in Northwood, commented on the clear links between the event and career inspiration.
“Speaking with my students after the event, they found it really enjoyable and engaging.
“It’s been fantastic for them to be able to hear first-hand from medical professionals about the work they do and learn valuable and practical life-saving skills. It gets them thinking about possibilities for their own careers.”
Alison Pottle summarised the event: “It’s hugely important that everyone is equipped with resuscitation skills to help save lives. The practical element of this event was really rewarding, watching delegates - including many schoolchildren - learn and implement new skills that they’ll carry with them for life.
“It’s always wonderful to share our work with the public and we were thrilled to have so many people come along to expand their knowledge in this important field, not just in a theoretical sense but through valuable training and simulation.”