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National database of defibrillator locations to be built

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Alice Sanderson, August 10, 2018

The NHS, British Heart Foundation (BHF) and Microsoft are partnering up on a project to map the UK’s defibrillators, to help increase their use in cardiac arrests that occur out of hospital.

Previous research revealed that when people are not near any medical care and have a heart attack, defibrillators are used in just 3% of cases. The BHF says that the reason for this is that very few people are aware that defibrillators are available.

There are tens of thousands of the devices installed across the UK in villages, schools, workplaces, transport hubs and a variety of other public places, but there is currently no comprehensive national database to specify their locations.

This lack of information means that if a person calls 999 they may not necessarily be directed to a defibrillator nearby, as call handlers may not be aware of the locations of the devices.

The British Heart Foundation estimate that if this information was readily available to emergency call handlers then thousands of lives could be saved. They say that, without this knowledge, the survival chances of tens of thousands of cardiac arrest patients are reduced.

There are more than 30,000 out of hospital cardiac arrests in the UK each year, survival rates are less than 1 in 10. The BHF say that in countries that are better equipped to deal with cardiac arrests these figures are more like 3 in 10.

The scheme will see a full UK map showing the locations of the defibrillators created in the next 12 months. It will be piloted by the Scottish and West Midlands ambulance services before it is introduced nationally.