HSE Launches Cardiac First Responder Guide

March 18th 2008

The Health Service Executive (HSE) today (Tuesday 18th March) launched the Cardiac First Responder Guide. Ann Doherty, Director of the HSE's National Hospitals Office launched the document, which guides communities on how to set up Cardiac First Responder Programmes. The Cardiac First Responder Guide has been developed by the HSE, in partnership with the Irish Heart Foundation and the Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council (PHECC).

First Responders are people who respond immediately, before the arrival of ambulances and emergency medical staff, to someone who has collapsed or whose heart has stopped. First Responder Programmes are set up in communities, at sites of major public gathering, airports, shopping centres, in clubs and workplaces, and can react in a co-ordinated way to a sudden collapse. Responses include administering CPR (mouth to mouth and chest compressions) along with using Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) to restart the heart. A First Responder Programme can play a significant role in keeping a person alive en route to expert medical care. The Cardiac First Responder Guide will advise groups who may be interested in setting up First Responder programmes in their own areas, with details of good practice, how to access training in CPR and use of AEDs, and linkages with Emergency Services.

In Ireland there are estimated to be over 5,000 sudden cardiac deaths per year, most of which are due to coronary heart disease. Where a death occurs within an hour of onset of symptoms, assumed to have a cardiac cause, it is considered a sudden cardiac death. Over the past few years there has been increasing awareness of sudden death in young adults, including sudden deaths in high profile athletes.

The Report of the Task Force on Sudden Cardiac Death (March 2006) noted that the chances of survival following a cardiac arrest are considerably improved if there is a rapid, coordinated response to the emergency. The report supported the concept of a 'CHAIN OF SURVIVAL' with components (links) being:

  1. Early access to the emergency medical services (EMS) - phoning 999 or 112;
  2. Early cardiopulmonary resuscitation;
  3. Early defibrillation; and
  4. Early advanced cardiac life support (ACLS)

Today's Guide was produced in response to this report's recommendation that a template or guide should be developed to provide local information and advice to communities, councils, organisations who wish to establish first responder programmes in their area.

The Cardiac First Responder Guide also introduces the newly agreed SYMBOL for AEDs - Automated External Defibrillators. This national signage for AEDs will be further promoted throughout 2008 to ensure that it becomes recognisable to the public, and prompts action to a sudden heart attack or collapse in public. Interested groups can also access advice on the purchase of AEDs, developed by the UCD Centre for Immediate Care Services and PHECC, with input from the HSE Ambulance Service, Irish Medicines Board and the Electro Technical Council of Ireland.

Launching the Guide, Ann Doherty, National Director of the HSE's National Hospitals Office, said: 'Today's launch marks an important milestone in our extensive programme of work, all of which is focused on improving responses to sudden cardiac events in Ireland. I would like to thank all the groups and professionals who have put their expertise into developing this guide.'

Speaking at the launch, Dr Siobhan Jennings, Chair of the Sudden Cardiac Death Steering Group, emphasised the importance of inter-agency cooperation - 'In order to save more lives in Ireland, we need to be better organised and better skilled to respond quickly to collapse and cardiac events in our community. It is an issue for all of us in society. While the HSE has overall responsibility for implementing the SCD report, other organisations, both statutory and non statutory, have an important role to play and these organisations and individuals have contributed immensely to the progress to date.'

You can read or download the Cardiac First Responder Guide below.

A First Progress Report (March 2008) on the implementation of the wider Sudden Cardiac Death Task Force recommendations is also available below.


Last updated on: 18 / 03 / 2008