More Defibrillators Needed in UK Public Spaces

Each year, around 60,000 instances of cardiac arrest are recorded outside the protection of hospitals. Sports grounds, schools, high streets, offices – cardiac arrest can occur anywhere, and it’s vitally important to act quickly in order to save lives. According to the British Heart Foundation, every minute without CPR and defibrillation reduces the chance of survival by 10%

Why Does a Defibrillator Help?

Defibrillators are machines that deliver an electric shock to the heart when there is a life-threatening arrhythmia (ventricular fibrillation). This is when the heart beats dangerously fast and out of rhythm with the normal cardiac cycle. The natural pacemakers within the heart (the sinoatrial node and atrioventricular node) are often confused during a heart attack, losing their rhythm and therefore preventing the heart from contracting and relaxing properly.

A defibrillator works by shocking the heart and, in laymen’s terms, ‘resetting’ the natural pacemaker nodes responsible for telling the heart to beat rhythmically.

Types of Defibrillator

The British Heart Foundation and various sports organisations have called for more automated external defibrillator (AED) machines to be rolled out in UK public spaces. Rather than the complicated internal defibrillators used most often in hospitals, portable defibrillator devices are designed to be used by laymen with scant medical training.

AEDs do not require human interaction to make the call on whether a shock is needed. They’re designed to monitor the heart and will only shock if it is the required medical response. The most common sign of cardiac arrest these machines look for is ventricular fibrillation (mentioned previously).

All that passers by using the machine need to do is carry it to the victim and place the adhesive electrode pads on the patient’s chest as directed by clear machine audio and visual instructions.

Public Awareness

A huge part of current campaigns by the likes of the British Heart Foundation is about removing the trepidation of passers by to step in and use a publicly located defibrillator. Council chiefs in numerous UK constituencies have given the green to light to plans for installing defibrillators in more public spaces – libraries, schools, leisure centres, etc. – alongside promotion of basic First Aid. It’s hoped by highlighting the usefulness of the machines and their specialist design to be used by a layman, more people will feel confident stepping in to aid someone potentially suffering a cardiac arrest in a public space.

Sports First Aid

Footballer Fabrice Mumba and Ryder Cup champion Bernard Gallacher both have defibrillators to thank for their survival after suffering cardiac arrests. A spokesman for Gallacher said the availability of a defibrillator was central to his survival. Gallacher, the PGA and European Tour all back the current campaign to add defibrillators to public and private golf courses.

Using a defibrillator in those vital early minutes of cardiac arrest could increase the chance of survival by as much as 75% according to Heart&Stroke Foundation. Keeping Britain’s public safe and healthy is all about vigilance and making the best training and tools available in the places needed most.

About the author: Libby Carins is a freelancer who has written for a wide range of websites, including

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