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GPs encouraged to sign up for Good Samaritan app

GPs are being encouraged to sign up for a new smartphone app that will alert them to medical emergencies happening nearby.

The Good SAM app allows community ‘alerters’ to send out a distress signal to the nearest medically-trained Good Samaritan, while at the same time automatically dialling 999. Medics who are within a few hundred metres can then proceed to the emergency on foot to help before the arrival of emergency services.

Doctors, nurses, paramedics and other people trained in first aid can sign up to receive alerts via the smartphone app, which plots the location of each responder on a map in realtime. GPs who register with the free app will be asked to verify their identity and ability to practice by uploading their GMC number and a copy of their work ID.

Responders can reject requests if they are unable to attend or if their ability to help is impaired (for example, if they have consumed alcohol). The alert is then transferred to the next nearest available responder. They can also ‘opt-out’ on a temporary or permanent basis by exiting the app or restarting their smartphone.

The app was developed by Mark Wilson, a consultant neurosurgeon at Imperial College who came up with the idea after witnessing the effect of brain apnoea and subsequent hypoxia on his emergency patients.

Mr Wilson told Pulse: ‘I see patients all the time who have had a bang on the head and stop breathing. Get them on ventilation and they’re fine, but sometimes, by the time they get to us, they’ve ended up with a hypoxic brain injury.

‘The answer to that isn’t better training - it’s just getting someone with the relevant medical training to them quicker. If you have an accident like that, there are bound to be thousands of people around you trained to help, but they just don’t know where to find you.’

He added: ‘GPs are ideal to sign up, because they’re very spread out. The idea is to cover the areas that ambulances find it difficult to get to quickly. That includes rural areas as well as big cities like London.’

Nearly 2000 people worldwide have signed up for the Good SAM app since its ‘soft launch’ in June, according to Mr Wilson. Nearly 1000 are in London, although other hotspots in Lincolnshire, Glasgow and Dublin have 50-100 people each.

The majority of those who have signed up so far are medically-qualified responders, although Mr Wilson expects more members of the public to sign up once the app launches publicly in three weeks’ time.

As yet, no incidents have been reported via the app, but doctors who sign up are provided with a ‘mission log’ to record the details of any emergencies they are called to. They must also adhere to a strict code of conduct which says they must not delay patients’ transfer to definitive care.

While any actions taken as the result of an alert are classed as ‘Good Samaritan Acts’ (and therefore unlikely to result in legal action), the app’s creators recommend that doctors ensure they are covered by medical indemnity.

Mr Wilson said: ‘People all have questions - what if I can’t respond? What happens if I get called to a rough council estate at three in the morning? But we are very clear that you should keep yourself safe.

‘In general, we’ve seen a really positive response - people are really engaging with the Good Samaritan aspect of it.’

Readers' comments (9)

  • Why not try such interventions? It's a lot less money than the £millions earmarked for Telehealth with no more evidence.
    Life problems have been medicalised -promoting Wellbeing and social integration might reduce medicalisation, overprescribing, overinvestigating and improve health related behaviours.

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  • Vinci Ho

    NHSE/CCGs are passive , short sighted and with no vision on what is needed for the future of the health services. Not every GP practice can afford to pay this money upfront to 'prove' something will work.
    Signposting and genuinely integrated care(with universal definition) are feasible only if the attitude and behaviour of NHSE and hence CCGs are different from now to provide the proper support and investment to practices to do their jobs, the 'tools' , in essence . Only if this happens will the so called co-commissioning have become meaningful.

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  • Vinci Ho, when reading your comments I do wonder if your confusion of attitude/behaviour with levels of resource is related to your seemingly universally negative view of all institutions that are not GP practices.

    Perhaps worth remembering then that it is unlikely that the squeeze on primary care is due to the attitude or 'lack of vision' of these anonymous people you like to blame, or their doing so just for the fun of it.
    Neither NHS England nor CCGs would fail to fund practices more if they had more money, but there just isn't the money in the system to keep funding at previous levels (though I am sure many would question whether those previous levels were ever sufficient either).

    Perhaps what may be more helpful is a well reasoned argument and campaign for more funding for primary care.

    Sadly though that does not deliver the same dramatic effect. It is however more likely to be effective.

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  • We are about to start a scheme very similar to this in Leeds which has been commissioned by Leeds West CCG and will allow GPs to signpost patients to project coordinators who will then make sure they access the right voluntary sector group / service

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  • Let me get this right. Someone wants me to be to an on-call first responder and drop everything I am doing (and believe me daytime I am not on the golf course) and attend an emergency. And all this for free, gratis, nothing.

    Hahahahahaha! Seriously! Dear me. Even if paid handsomely I would not sign up as it detracts from my primary purpose as a GP and that is provide for my patients a GP service.

    This app should be for the Ambulance guys.

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  • My comments above should be ignored - posted on 16.7 on an article released 18.7! Wrong article pulse ! I won't be downloading this app.

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  • The app makes perfect sense from the point of view of emergency care, and perhaps will be downloaded by those who lack for work or who are happy with the promiscuous unfunded increase in their responsibilities that GPs are so happy to acquiesce to.

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  • what a fantastic way to spend my spare time - just need to let the family know ;)

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  • "The app was developed by Mark Wilson, a consultant neurosurgeon at Imperial College"

    No offence to the chap who made the app but clearly lacks in sight into the real world. Our indemnity fees are already 7k/annum, we work 50+hours/week (none private), "spare" time used in federation/CCG/cluster/partnership meeting (not included in above work time). And he thinks GPs should sign up to this - for free?

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