It is hoped that “thousands” of lives could be saved from cardiac arrests, thanks to a new partnership between the NHS, the British Heart Foundation (BHF), and Microsoft.
The partnership aims to map all of the UK’s defibrillators, with a shared ambition for the life-saving devices to be made readily available for every out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
The initiative is in response to figures that show public access defibrillators are used in less than 3% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, significantly reducing the survival chances of tens of thousands of people every year.
One of the biggest barriers to their use is the location of these devices is often unknown to bystanders and ambulance services, despite tens of thousands of defibrillators being placed prominently in workplaces, train stations, leisure centres and public places across the country.
The BHF says this is leading to a needless loss of lives, as 999 call handlers are unable to direct bystanders to their nearest defibrillator when someone suffers a cardiac arrest.
Combining their expertise in technology and healthcare, the BHF, NHS England, NHS Scotland and Microsoft solutions provider New Signature will now work together over the next 12 months to develop a network of defibrillators across the UK that can be used by ambulance services.
The pioneering project is expected to help save lives every day right across the country.
The move is part of a coordinated strategy between the BHF, NHS and other health organisations to improve the UK’s poor cardiac arrest survival rates by increasing the application of CPR and defibrillation to patients, and improving post-resuscitation care.
There are over 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests every year in the UK, but less than one in 10 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.
The network will be piloted by West Midlands Ambulance Service and the Scottish Ambulance Service, before being rolled out across the UK.
Speaking about the importance of defibrillators, BHF’s chief executive, Simon Gillespie, said: “Every minute without CPR or defibrillation reduces a person’s chance of surviving a cardiac arrest by around 10 per cent.
“Thousands more lives could be saved if the public were equipped with vital CPR skills, and had access to a defibrillator in the majority of cases.
“Over the last five years we’ve made great progress in introducing CPR training in more schools. We now need to improve access to the tens of thousands of public defibrillators across the UK.
“These life-saving devices can provide a vital lifeline for cardiac arrest victims until ambulance services arrive.
“This innovative project will give every ambulance service immediate access to the location of defibrillators in their areas, so they can direct bystanders to their nearest life-saving device in the event of a cardiac arrest.”
Image credit: BHF