Ex-paramedic attacks ‘insulting’ first aid ad

MCHG 12-799   Sarah Toll at Hemel Hempstead Hospital.
MCHG 12-799 Sarah Toll at Hemel Hempstead Hospital.

A former paramedic and cancer patient from Hemel Hempstead has blasted an advert for St John Ambulance as ‘insensitive and insulting’.

Sarah Toll, of Wood View, Gadebridge, is among more than 100 people who have lodged complaints with the advertising watchdog over the prime-time ad, which depicts a man surviving cancer but then choking to death at a barbecue.

“I was really devastated,” she said. “They have really got the wrong handle on what cancer is all about.

“I realise they have a crucial message to get out there but they really need to do it in a different way.

“If they spend this much money on an advertising campaign, they could’ve spent the money on people giving advice and demonstrations.”

Sarah, pictured, who works in IT at West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust, was a paramedic for 14 years. She contracted breast cancer in 2009 and had treatment for a year.

During her time as a paramedic she treated two people for choking, one of whom died, and she also resuscitated her father when he choked in 2003.

“St John use irony in a way that is insensitive and insulting to those who have encountered cancer and death through choking,” she said.

St John Ambulance says the same number of people die each year in first aid situations as from cancer. A spokesman said: “Our ad is shocking but then it’s shocking when someone who dies could have had a chance to live.

“It’s no wonder that the response has been overwhelmingly positive – thousands of people have been texting for free first aid guides and visiting our website for additional information.

“To anyone who feels our tactics are too harsh, we do apologise, but we hope those people realise that this advert will save lives.”

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