Opiates Study Day, Plas y Brenin, Snowdonia

Today team members Alistair Greenough and Mark Scott headed off to Wales for a training day organised by the Mountain Rescue England & Wales. The topic was Opiates – strong painkilling (analgesic) drugs, and in particular an exploration of the potential of some opiates not hitherto widely used in Mountain Rescue. The opiate morphine, injected into muscle (IM – intramuscular), has been used in Mountain Rescue since the middle of the last century thanks to a special license permitting its use in the treatment of moderate to severe pain brought about by severe trauma and sometimes heart attack. Recently, a change in the law has made it possible for other types of opiate to be considered for use by casualty care qualified mountain rescuers and the course presented the case for three new types, with a detailed examination of their characteristics, administration, side effects and precautions. The three were intravenous (IV) morphine, intranasal (IN) diamorphine atomiser, and fentanyl lozenges (buccal – administered to the cheek tissue on the inside of the mouth). Course participants had undertaken a taxing research exercise prior to the course to ensure a thorough background knowledge, and were given feedback on this from the course organiser.

The course was extremely informative and took place in a friendly and informal, yet searching and thorough way, with an excellent mix of presentations, demonstrations and hands-on practical work using needles, syringes, cannulas and vials of … just water of course! Special model arms enabled the safe development of intravenous technique.

The instructors were Dr John Ellerton, MREW National Medical Officer (course organiser), a consultant anaesthetist from Gwynedd Hospital, Bangor, a critical care nurse specialist from the same hospital, and an ex-army medic with Iraq and special services active duty experience presently working as a GP and mountain rescue team doctor for Swaledale team. Quite a remarkable set of experts, it was a great pleasure to be taught by them! They were, simply brilliant, and the course was truly fascinating.

Mark and Alistair wish to extend their thanks to all those who made the course possible. They will be informing Bolton team members of what they learned in subsequent training sessions.