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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 January, 2005, 10:22 GMT
Binmen could treat heart patients
A refuse worker
Binmen would receive training to use the defibrillators
Binmen could give life-saving treatment to heart attack patients in a rural area of England.

Crews would carry defibrillators, machines which give electric shocks, under the plan being considered by Staffordshire Moorlands Council.

Using a defibrillator within four minutes of a cardiac arrest increases the chances of survival by 80%.

Council leader Ron Locker said the scheme, backed by the local ambulance service, could save lives.

Rural area

"The binmen are very much up for the idea. It is a rural area and, therefore, it is not always possible for ambulance crews to reach patients within four minutes.

"This could make a real difference. We would obviously give them training."

The plan is set to come before councillors at a meeting in March and, if they agree to it, some of the council's 20 binmen crews could start carrying the machines within a year.

The council has already introduced the machines in its three one-stop shops - although staff have not had to use them yet.

Using the machines within four minutes increases chances of survival

The machines, which cost 1,200 - a price which includes training for six people - are all pre-programmed and take the user through what to do step-by-step.

Bob Lee, of Staffordshire Ambulance Service, described it as a "wonderful, wonderful" idea.

"No ambulance service in the world can serve such a large area as we cover within four minutes so if binmen are on hand they could prove a great asset.

"I would point out that we are not replacing ambulance crews with binmen.

"People should not be worried. The machines are automatic, they do all the work, including testing whether an electric shock is necessary too."

Katharine Peel, head of emergency life support at the British Heart Foundation, said reaching cardiac arrest patients within four minutes can be a problem in remote areas.

"We believe the more access people have to this vital life-saving equipment the better.

"Everyone already relies on binmen - up at dawn to clear our rubbish, keeping our streets clean.

"We strongly support the initiative in Leek, which will give binmen the chance to be lifesavers in more ways than one."

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