If someone has a sudden cardiac arrest in a public place, their chances of survival are greatly improved if they can receive prompt treatment with a defibrillator. Public defibrillators are easy for any bystander to use without prior medical training. But unless people can find their nearest defibrillator in an emergency, precious time could still be lost. That’s why a new project aims to map the location of all the UK’s defibrillators, so that emergency call handlers can guide those at the scene to the lifesaving equipment they need.
You may have seen Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in and around local parks and schools. There are tens of thousands across the UK. Some have been installed in the iconic old red telephone boxes, making them easy to spot. And that’s important, because in an emergency, finding the nearest defibrillator and getting it to the patient quickly can be the difference between life and death.
According to Simon Gillespie, chief executive at the British Heart Foundation (BHF): “Every minute without CPR or defibrillation reduces a person’s chance of surviving a cardiac arrest by around 10%. Thousands more lives could be saved if the public had access to a defibrillator.”
Public defibrillators are safe and easy to use with no training required, because they analyse the patient’s exact condition and give clear verbal instructions to those in attendance. The hardest part is usually finding a nearby defibrillator in the first place. Information about the whereabouts of AEDs – which give a high energy electric shock to the heart – is patchy and not all are known to ambulance services.
Helping emergency services to help you
The new project will give emergency call handlers immediate access to a location map, showing the nearest defibrillators to the victim. When a member of the public calls 999 after finding someone whose heart has stopped, they can be directed to their nearest AED.
Previous research has found that just 3% of patients who suffer cardiac arrests that happen outside of hospital are treated with public access defibrillators. A cardiac arrest occurs when a person’s heart suddenly stops pumping blood around their body, which can starve the brain of oxygen and lead to a person falling unconscious and stopping breathing.
There are more than 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests every year in the UK, but fewer than one in ten people survive. In countries where the public are better equipped to recognise and deal with cardiac arrests, survival rates are up to three times higher, according to the BHF.
The new project, a collaboration between the BHF, NHS England, NHS Scotland and Microsoft solutions provider New Signature, will create a comprehensive map of defibrillators across the UK. The scheme will be piloted by West Midlands Ambulance Service and the Scottish Ambulance Service, before being rolled out across the UK.
One parent has welcomed the initiative to improve awareness about the whereabouts of defibrillators after saving the life of his son with one of the devices.
Stuart Askew used a public defibrillator on his son Ethan last April after the 15-year-old collapsed on the school field. Mr Askew, who happens to work as a premises manager at the same school had helped to set up a defibrillator just two days previously.
After running across the field to find the school receptionist performing CPR on his son, Mr Askew called on Ethan’s classmates to retrieve the defibrillator – which the school had after making a successful application to the BHF for a community defibrillator for the village. He was able to use the AED on Ethan, who has now made a complete recovery, following surgery to treat a narrowed artery, caused by a genetic condition.
Without CPR and a nearby defibrillator it could have been a very different story.
How can I get a defibrillator?
There’s no doubt that installing an AED in a public area, home or workplace can save lives. If you’d like to support your community by introducing an AED to somewhere near you, get in touch with us today and we’ll guide you through the process.
Want to find out more about how defibrillators have been used to save lives in practice? Check out how a timely installation of a defibrillator saved lives at a road race in Ruislip.