Mum of tragic baby who choked to death wins 999 campaign

Joanne Thompson, Millie's Trust founder and Millie's mum
Joanne Thompson, Millie's Trust founder and Millie's mum
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Changes are to made to the advice given to 999 callers when somebody is choking, it can be revealed.

Emergency dispatchers at the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) currently encourage abdominal thrusts – or the ‘Heimlich manoeuvre’.

Millie Thompson, who choked to death in 2012

Millie Thompson, who choked to death in 2012

But following talks with charity Millie’s Trust, set up after nine-month-old Millie Thompson choked to death on her dinner in 2012, people will now be told to use back slaps first – as long as they have had first aid training.

Medical director David Radcliffe said: “The CEO of Millie’s Trust approached our service to enquire why the advice given by our emergency control staff in the case of choking child differs from the current European guidelines on choking management.

“The reason for the difference in advice is that, in untrained individuals, the ‘back slap’ technique has the potential, especially in an upright patient, to further obstruct the airway.

“The training given on first aid courses, such as those run by Millie’s Trust, allow for this by teaching the correct technique under directly observed training.

“I have been in discussion with Millie’s parents and agreed with their suggested compromise. Where the caller is trained in giving first aid for choking they will be advised to perform the procedure they were taught.”

Millie’s inquest heard the baby died after eating shepherd’s pie at her nursery in Greater Manchester.

Nobody was to blame, but the coroner wrote to the government after hearing the nursery supervisor feeding her only had an expired basic first aid certificate.

Millie’s mum, Joanne, said: “We realised there was a lack of consistency with what a trained first aider was taught to do on a course, and what a 999 call centre handler would tell you what to do when you call 999.

“We have broached the topic of possibly adding a question to the algorithm when you call 999 about a choking casualty of, ‘Are you trained in first aid?’

“It seems to be that since the AMPDS system was first developed, first aid training knowledge has become a lot more widely available and we believe the system and advice needs to be updated to recognise this development.

“It seems ridiculous that we, along with thousands more training providers, are training what we are taught to, and yet this isn’t recognised when calling 999, possibly leading the call maker to doubt their own skills, which could be detrimental to the patient.”

National advice on choking from the NHS, in severe cases when a patient is unable to speak, cry, cough, or breathe, is to give them five sharp blows between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.

If that doesn’t work, five abdominal thrusts should be given – but never to pregnant women or babies under one year old.

If the person is still choking, 999 should be called, and cycles of five back blows and five abdominal thrusts should be given until help arrives, the NHS advises.

However, if the person loses consciousness and they’re not breathing, you should begin CPR with chest compressions.