Every year, around 60,000 people in the UK will have an out of-hospital cardiac arrest. Resuscitation will be attempted by the ambulance service in around 28,000 cases. Less than 10% of these will survive.
British Heart Foundation and The Resuscitation Council (UK)
A cardiac arrest is when someone’s heart stops pumping blood around the body and they stop breathing normally. Without intervention, brain damage will begin to occur in around four minutes. After ten minutes, survival is extremely unlikely.
Giving an electric shock through the chest wall, by using an AED is often the only way a person can recover from a cardiac arrest. This can be done in the ambulance, or at hospital, or it can be done by a member of the public at the scene of a cardiac arrest if there is an AED nearby.
Bystander Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and their use of an AED in the first few minutes can significantly improve the chance of survival. Defibrillation within three to five minutes can increase survival rates to 50-70%.
Community AEDs can be found both in small rural villages, as well as urban cities; in fact, they can be found just about anywhere there are people. They are funded by communities, sometimes with help from local and national charities.
Many businesses, schools and sports centres have defibrillators on their premises. These are often located inside secured premises and do not usually need a cabinet with a keypad lock. We would encourage businesses that own a defibrillator to consider placing it in an external cabinet to open up availability but we understand this is not always suitable. If you can only make your AED accessible to the public during certain times, you can register this availability with us, it all helps.
The Resuscitation Council (UK) guidelines state that the use of defibrillators should NOT be restricted to trained personnel. AEDs can be safely used by untrained members of the public. An AED will analyse the patient’s heart rhythm, and will only deliver a shock if the heart needs it, you cannot hurt someone by using it. Being aware that you can use a defibrillator and that it is easy and safe to do so, can speed up the time between turning the machine on and the first shock being delivered, if required. For this reason we offer a free, two hour familiarisation session, for those purchasing a community AED, and for a small charge we can offer this to those purchasing AEDs for private/ workplace use.
The likelihood of causing harm by performing CPR or using an AED is very small. At the time of writing this article we are not aware of any reported successful claims in the UK against a rescuer attempting to resuscitate someone having a suspected cardiac arrest. The Resuscitation Council (UK), who are responsible for developing and publishing evidence-based resuscitation guidelines in the UK, have published a user’s guide if you wish to understand more: www.resus.org.uk/cpr/cpr-aeds-andthe-law
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