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A doctor writes: The cabin crew are able to cope perfectly well in a medical emergency


It is the duty of a doctor to help as best they can in the event of an emergency. The keen young newly qualified doctors are often very quick indeed to respond. I never head the stampede, and often I’ve found there are too many offers of help, and not enough space to do anything.

On any decent-sized aircraft there will be a plethora of medics and perhaps allowing those who feel most up-to-speed to come forward is a good strategy. All doctors are not equally competent in emergency situations. For example, I’d rather be assessed by a GP than a pathologist.

On one occasion, when I was the only doctor involved in an incident (there was no loudspeaker appeal: my husband “volunteered” me), the stewardesses were coping admirably with a simple faint and I didn’t do much – except confirm the diagnosis and make reassuring noises. Often in a real emergency, CPR is what is most important and many people are trained in this, including the cabin crew.

Clearly, people are reassured if there is a doctor on hand even if, if truth be told, we’re not always that useful. What we are good at is being able to assess rapidly who is really ill and who has just fainted.