Many people are alive today thanks to efforts of ERC but like all advanced applied science we stand on the shoulders of giants.

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A history of the European Resuscitation Council

Over the past century, Europe has been a fertile soil for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and emergency medical care. It has produced many of the pioneers of resuscitation science including Vladimir Negovsky, Peter Safar, and Fritz Ahnefeld who introduced the universal concept of the Chain of Survival (“die Rettungskette” 1967).

Kouwenhoven, Jude and Knickerbocker had introduced modern CPR in 1960. By 1966, the techniques were adopted by the first CPR Conference of the American National Academy of Sciences with the recommendation that healthcare professions should receive appropriate training. The Red Cross and the AHA played key roles in the process. The Guidelines for CPR have developed progressively over the years and the published reports of the CPR conferences were widely distributed. European scientists from many disciplines and organizations attended the fourth 1985 CPR and ECC conference in Dallas and came home with fresh and innovative ideas. In many countries national CPR councils or working groups were established but the time had come for international collaboration in this area.

In the 1980s, scientific, political and economic Europe was developing rapidly with a growing desire for collaboration. In 1986 the late Lars Mogensen, a distinguished cardiologist from Stockholm, initiated a proposal to create a working group on CPR in the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) but it was not accepted at their 1988 Congress in Vienna. After this rejection, a group of enthusiasts met up in the catering area of the congress. Strengthened by a beer and a hamburger, Douglas Chamberlain, Leo Bossaert, Lars Mogensen, Hugh Tunstall-Pedoe, Paul Hugenholtz, Stig Holmberg, and John Camm agreed to set up an interdisciplinary international collaborative European council on CPR, and chose the name ‘European Resuscitation Council’ (ERC).

An initial meeting of 20 founding members representing all major European disciplines with an interest in resuscitation medicine took place in Antwerp on 13 December 1988 (see PDF below for details) with the support of a grant from the Laerdal Foundation. Douglas Chamberlain became temporary Chairman and Leo Bossaert temporary Secretary until official elections could take place. The agreed objectives were ‘To save human life by improving standards of resuscitation in Europe, and by coordinating the activities of European organisations with a legitimate interest in cardiopulmonary resuscitation’, to be achieved by science, guidelines and implementation.

In August 1989 an Executive Committee elected Peter Baskett as the first Chairman, with Stig Holmberg vice-chairman, Daniel Scheidegger as Honorary Treasurer and Leo Bossaert as Honorary Secretary. Peter Baskett was succeeded in turn by Wolfgang Dick, Pierre Carli, Petter Andreas Steen, David Zideman, Bernd Boettiger, and Maaret Castren.
Inter-professional collaboration has been paramount: formal collaboration has been set up with more than 30 National Resuscitation Councils (NRCs), including some outside Europe. Collaboration with industrial partners has also been encouraged.

Organisation. The ERC was created by a group of friends. Many of the successes and achievements were facilitated by this personal approach and by individual members that were driven by a common passion and commitment. This intimate structure could not be maintained as the organisation grew to more than 1000 members, with major international congresses, course manuals translated into most European languages, hundreds of annual courses, thousands of certified instructors, active communication via website and Newsletters. This required a professional organisation with corporate governance, efficiency and subsidiarity that was in place by 2011.

Journal. Resuscitation became the official journal of the ERC in 1991 with Douglas Chamberlain as the first editor-in-chief (followed by Peter Baskett and Jerry Nolan). It became a leading journal in this domain.

Congress. The first Congress of the ERC was in Brighton in 1992. The move to wider international cooperation had been proposed by the American Heart Association at a meeting in Dallas in 1991, and a liaison committee that later became known as ILCOR was established at this Brighton meeting. Subsequent ERC congresses have been held in Mainz, Seville, Copenhagen, Lyon, Antwerp, Firenze, Budapest, Stavanger, Ghent, Porto, Vienna, Bilbao, Malta, Köln, Prague and Reykjavik.

Guidelines. Producing guidelines for the practice of CPR is a core business of the ERC. Science is now being reviewed globally by ILCOR and their consensus serves as the basis for production of ERC guidelines and development of courses at intervals of approximately 5 years: 1992, 1998, 2000, 2005, 2010, 2015. They are accepted in most of Europe as the standard of care and the reference for clinical practice.

Courses. ERC courses reflect the most recent guidelines, with hands-on training and uniform teaching methods. With the support of NRCs, manuals are translated into many European languages.
Today, instructors from different European countries need to meet only briefly before running perfectly coordinated course in BLS, ALS, PLS or NLS.

Landmark events. In 2012, a group of ERC members and European Members of Parliament (MEP) made a written declaration (0011/2012) with recommendations to increase awareness of Cardiac Arrest in Europe. As a result, a dedicated annual day to increase European Cardiac Arrest Awareness was set on 16th October, starting in 2013. The title of this is “European Restart a Heart Day”.

In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) endorsed a joint Statement by the ERC, ILCOR, the European Patient Safety Foundation, and the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists, promoting training school children in CPR worldwide. Its title is “Kids Save Lives”.

In summary, the core business of ERC remains as it was from the beginning: ‘To preserve life by making high-quality resuscitation available to all’.

A comprehensive history of the ERC was published by Leo Bossaert and Douglas Chamberlain in 2013 in Resuscitation.

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