Defibrillators used in just one in 10 cardiac arrests outside hospital

Life-saving defibrillators are not being used in nine out of ten cardiac arrests despite being located less than half a kilometre away.

Analysis of data from the East of England revealed there were 1,649 cases where a patient’s heart stopped suddenly in the six months to last September.

But despite public access defibrillators being located within 500m in 1,302 of those cases, they were only used in 132.

Experts said the “concerning” findings showed an urgent need to raise awareness of defibrillators and encourage the public to do everything possible to increase survival chances in an emergency.

Study author Dr Thomas Keeble, a consultant cardiologist and professor at Anglia Ruskin University, said the number of times the devices were used was “strikingly low”. He added: “Much more needs to be done to promote awareness and education around CPR and defibrillation. 

“It is also concerning to see far fewer defibrillators in the most deprived areas – such a finding should prompt further discussion about more consistent and effective placement of defibrillators in communities.”

Luton, the most deprived area in the East of England had the lowest rates of defibrillators in the region, with 16 defibrillators per 100,000 people, compared to a regional average of 72.

The study used data from the East of England Ambulance Service and The Circuit, the UK’s national defibrillator network.

The Daily Express Complete The Circuit crusade is raising awareness of the vital network, which is used to direct 999 callers to their nearest device.

There are more than 100,000 defibrillators across the UK, but only 66,000 have been logged. Our campaign has been backed by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and NHS England’s medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis.

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Judy O’Sullivan, the BHF’s director of innovation in health programmes, said: “Prompt CPR and defibrillation from bystanders can be the difference between life and death, so it is concerning to see low rates of defib use.

“There are many known reasons for the low use of defibrillators, including not having enough bystanders available at the scene of an emergency, difficulty in accessing a defibrillator at the time when it is needed, or fear of it using it.

“We are calling upon everybody who owns or looks after defib to register it on The Circuit today – this could help save someone’s life.”  

The findings will be presented at the British Cardiovascular Society Conference in Manchester on Tuesday.

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