A CUMBRIAN medical charity was instrumental in saving a farmer's severed hand after an accident involving heavy farm machinery.

Dr Theo Weston, who set up BEEP Doctors (BASICS Cumbria) in 1994, gave a presentation on the service to members of Cumberland Council's health overview and scrutiny committee in Cumbria House on Thursday (April 18).

He had been invited by Councillor Carni McCarron-Holmes (Maryport North, Labour), the committee chairwoman, because she and other members did not know that much about what the service did.

During the presentation he showed a short video which explained the charity's activities as well as an interview with the farmer who was injured in the accident.

Dr Weston said that because a BEEP doctor had been sent to the scene they were able to align the arm and hand so that it could be successfully saved following micro surgery at the RVI in Newcastle.

He said that the hand was now 95 percent functioning and added: "It was an amazing success story. It's an incredibly rewarding job."

Dr Weston told members that call outs included: road traffic collisions; falls from heights greater than 15 feet; crush injury with trapped/impaled casualty; stabbing assaults; drowning; persons reported in fire; firearms stand-by; medical collapse/cardiac arrest; and other calls at discretion of control officer.

He said that they had also been called to major incidents such the Manchester bombing, the terrorist attack in Paris and the Grenfell Tower fire.

Dr Weston said the annual running costs were between £150,000 and £200,000 and the volunteer doctors have a mix of skills which ranged from very experienced consultants to GP/A&E/anaesthetics/air ambulance doctors.

He said that last Sunday he got a call to see if he was available to treat a 20-year-old person who was having a cardiac arrest in the car park of Pets At Home in Penrith - when he was actually inside the store.

Dr Weston said it had to be the 'quickest response time ever' and added: "It was literally seconds away. We got his heart going and he was taken to Carlisle. He's made a complete recovery."

Councillor John Mallinson (Houghton and Irthington, Conservative) asked about cardiac arrests and Dr Weston said: "If you don't get the heart working quickly they will call us."

Councillor Helen Davison (Belah, Green Party), herself a former A&E doctor, said she was giving a "big shout out to all our first responders" and added: "It's a shame it isn't part of our NHS."

She asked if the ambulance waiting times was having an impact on the service and Dr Weston said the backlogs were having an effect. He added: "We are being called to jobs more and more. We get the impression that they are using us more and more. We are getting to jobs before ambulances more often."

Councillor Gillian Troughton (Howgate, Labour) asked if there was a risk to the service though a lack of funding or the availability of doctors. She added: "Are these doctors still coming forward."

Dr Weston said: "Funding, it's always a struggle but we seem to be doing okay for money. We don't advertise for doctors but we advertise those who have an interest in pre-hospital treatment to come forward."

He told members that the success of the service was that, because they were doctors, they could provide treatment at the scene that paramedics could not. Such treatments include:

  • Anaesthetics (RSI): drug assisted advanced airway management;
  • Surgical procedures (such as airway, chest drains, thoracostomy, thoracotomy, amputations);
  • Central IV lines;
  • Use of drugs such as ketamine, fentanyl and magnesium;
  • Use of broader training and experience;
  • Supporting and assisting paramedics at the scene;
  • Specialist areas such as burns, children and obstetrics;
  • Ultrasound examinations;
  • And blood transfusions although in Cumbria only the air ambulances carry blood supplies.