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Pre-Trip Planning


Pre-Trip Planning


The weather is improving, and we are already looking forward to some great paddling trips. It may not be glamorous, but have you considered your back up plans in case something goes wrong.

My background includes 26 years of white water paddling, 9 years of sea kayaking, and 15 years as a paramedic. I’d like to share with you some of my experiences and knowledge, to help you better prepare for those incidents that crop up from time to time. My focus will be on healthcare. 


Accessing Healthcare


Hopefully you won’t need to, but there are several places you can easily access the NHS when you are in a hurry.


  • A pharmacy
  • A Minor Injuries Unit (MIU),
  • Urgent Care Centres (UCC)
  • Walk-In- Centre (WIC)
  • Accident and Emergency Department. (A+E)
  • 111 or 999


Knowing where the most appropriate facility is situated, can save you time, and speed up access to care. For most injuries sustained whilst kayaking, a MIU will be perfectly adequate. Before you leave for your trip, it’s worth making a note of the phone numbers of the MIU near your paddling destination. Don’t rely too heavily on your Smartphone, and having a signal.

Minor injuries units and urgent care centres CAN treat:


  • sprains and strains
  • broken bones
  • wound infections
  • minor burns and scalds
  • minor head injuries
  • insect and animal bites
  • minor eye injuries
  • injuries to the back, shoulder and chest

If you want to access a MIU or UCC then call ahead to check they will accept you. It all depends on what equipment and staff they have available on the day. Remember that you’re most likely to be paddling on a weekend when they may be closed or operating with fewer staff. If you attend a MIU you could save yourself hours of waiting. ALL life threatening conditions need to access A+E via 999.

There are a few notable conditions that they cannot deal with and which we might encounter whilst on a kayaking trip.

Minor Injuries Units and urgent care centres CANNOT treat, amongst other things:


  • chest pain
  • breathing difficulties
  • major injuries
  • stomach pains
  • allergic reactions


For a full list see the website http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/AboutNHSservices/Emergencyandurgentcareservices/Pages/Minorinjuriesunit.aspx



Re-enactment: Notice the gentle head-tilt to keep the airway open. The helmet was removed to enable better control of the head. Also, we now don’t want a tight chinstrap that could constrict the airway. In the actual incident we had equal support on both sides of the casualty.



Pre-Trip Information Gathering


1. In case of an emergency then as group leader, do you have enough details on the paddlers in your group so that doctors can access medical records?


  • Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Address


Other details that would be of assistance to health care professionals are:


  • Known allergies
  • Known medical conditions
  • Medications taken
  • Emergency contact details


Remember that this is personal data and sensitive data, so you have a responsibility under the Data Protection Act to ensure that the information is accurate, relevant, not excessive, is used it only for the intention for which it was supplied, that it is kept secure, not transferred outside the European Economic Area without security, and that it is deleted it when it is no longer needed.  These principles are for data held by organisations, businesses and government. There is a domestic and recreational use that is exempt (e.g. keeping a list of friend’s birthdays on your laptop) but the principles are important and good practice in all cases.


See https://www.gov.uk/data-protection/the-data-protection-act

If you are participating in a kayaking trip, have you informed the leader of any injuries and health issues?


2. Make a note of telephone number of the local MIU to where you are paddling. On an overseas trip do you know which towns have a hospital with A+E facilities?
3. For overseas trips, in case of a lost/stolen Passport, do you know where the nearest British Consulate is, or can you find this out?
4. Maps. Sea kayakers tend to have maps with them that show the nearest and best escape points. On rivers it’s worth taking a laminate of the section you’ll be paddling so that you can judge which side of the river is best for going for or receiving assistance. Where are the footpaths? Where are the roads?



Don’t forget to take antiseptic wipes. Have them available by the food/kitchen area, and have this area isolated from the rest of your camp.


First Aid Kit

Check your first aid kit. Have you forgotten to restock any items, or has water seeped in and ruined it? There may be some medications you want to add, that you wouldn’t normally. If you’re going to take medications to combat fever, diarrhoea, muscular pain, or any other condition, make sure that you take them in their box with the information leaflet, and read the leaflet before taking your medicines.
Another piece of kit that I like to take along is a thermometer to test for fever.


Going Abroad?

Check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website for the latest advice on your destination. https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice. If it has been flagged up as a dangerous place to be at the moment, it will likely invalidate your travel insurance, so check this out.


Any meds that you think you will need, buy in this country. If you wait until you’re abroad, then the leaflet will be in a foreign language.


Check where the nearest British Government Consulate is. If you need to get an emergency travel document because of theft or damage to a passport then you’ll need one with this facility.


You will stand out as a tourist. Your vehicle will stand out like a goldmine. Think about where you are parking your vehicle. Try to park in open spaces, where lots of tourists or locals congregate, such as supermarkets. Hide valuables away. Car thieves spend on average 17 seconds in a vehicle, so things that you cannot afford to have stolen must be hard to find. Under the driver’s seat isn’t good enough.


Lock your boats onto your roofrack before leaving it unguarded.


Travel insurance may not cover your car contents if you are away from your vehicle. With a kayaking trip, you’ll have a lot of contents in your car so check the small print.

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