CRUs: Dr Altaf’s Idea Could Revolutionise Emergency Treatment

SRINAGAR: The delivery of emergency medicine in Kashmir could soon be revolutionised, thanks to a pioneering idea being introduced to the Jammu & Kashmir government by a politician from Wales. 
Dr Altaf Hussain was born in Kashmir where he undertook his initial training as a doctor before going on to specialise in orthopaedics, retiring as a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon.  Having studied in Liverpool, England, Dr Hussain worked in Saudi Arabia before spending many years at the Prince Charles Hospital in Wales. After his retirement from medicine, he entered politics full-time and was elected to the National Assembly for Wales, representing South Wales West for the Welsh Conservative Party. He also serves as Wales’ ‘Shadow Minister’ for Social Services, as well as on the Assembly’s Health Committee. 
The novel idea of Cycle Responder Units (CRUs) first originated in London. Paramedic Tom Lynch – a British and European BMX cycling champion as a youngster – was held up in traffic in his ambulance responding to an emergency call-out when the thought of combining his two passions occurred to him.
The idea quickly took hold with First Aid Charity St John Cymru – Wales’ leading voluntary First Aid provider. St John Cymru have over 1,000 highly trained ‘community first responders’ across the country and work in close partnership with the statutory Welsh Ambulance Service.
During an official visit to St John Cymru’s Headquarters in Cardiff, Dr Hussain immediately recognised how the service could transform access to emergency treatment in Jammu & Kashmir. He has been deeply concerned by this issue for many years, and has given a number of lectures on the delivery of medical treatment to what he calls “the periphery”.  Dr Hussain discussed the idea of introducing the service to Jammu & Kashmir with volunteers and the management Board of St John Cymru, and was met with an enthusiastic response.  He is now meeting with the Chief Minister  Mufti M. Sayeed, in the hope of developing a plan that will save lives in remote areas, in a way previously unprecedented.
Dr Hussain said “We know at present how impossible it is to reach a hospital in many parts of Jammu & Kashmir.  In 2009 I spoke about the need for us to build a modern Ambulance Service in each and every ward, town and village.  The disparity in facilities between rural and urban parts of India is a concern shared with Mr Rajiv Gandhi as far back as 1973.  I have seen how this service works in the UK, and if we have the will to bring it about in Jammu & Kashmir I know how it can be a powerful force to save lives”.
The bicycle response units are equipped with a mini-defibrillator and resuscitation kit.  Since its initial pilot last year, it is estimated that over 10 lives have been saved in Wales’ capital, Cardiff, alone – as a direct result of interventions by the CRU units. In London, there are now over 60 paramedics employed as part of a similar scheme, with the scheme having attracted the backing of blue-chip UK companies such as BT plc.

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