Trudie Lobban MBE
Founder and CEO, Arrhythmia Alliance
There are calls for automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) to be as commonplace as smoke alarms and fire extinguishers. This life-saving equipment should be accessible 24/7.
Each year in the UK, 100,000 people die from sudden cardiac death, with most of these deaths being avoidable. In particular, in the event of a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), the use of an AED is key to saving a life. A SCA is not a heart attack. A SCA is when the heart stops completely because of a fatal arrhythmia (heart rhythm disorder) whereas a heart attack is when the blood supply to the heart is blocked.
Increase chances of survival
Whilst CPR is vitally important after an SCA, it only increases the chance of survival to 9%. An AED plus CPR increases the chance of survival to well over 50%. Yet, unlike smoke alarms and fire extinguishers, AEDs are not legal requirements. Also, do we even know where our nearest AED is? Given a SCA can happen at any time, anywhere, to anyone, having 24/7 access to an AED is essential. The use of an AED, whilst waiting for the paramedics to arrive, can mean the difference between life and death.
An AED is easy to use, no training is required as the machine talks to you. It will only shock the heart back into its normal rhythm if it detects a fatal arrhythmia.
For every minute that passes after a SCA, the chance of survival decreases by 10%.
Arrhythmia Alliance’s Defibs Save Lives campaign has long provided placement of AEDs that are accessible 24/7 in communities. Yet, more is needed. For every minute that passes after a SCA, the chance of survival decreases by 10%, so an AED needs to be used within the first few minutes.
Ambulance services across the country work in collaboration with Arrhythmia Alliance to list the known AEDs on their system. Therefore, when someone calls, they can be told where they can locate their nearest AED. Ambulance services can only do this if they know where the publicly accessible AEDs are.
Improving AED accessibility
We want to do even more and ensure that AEDs are as commonplace as smoke alarms and fire extinguishers. AEDs can be placed outside shops, gyms, village halls and offices. They must be outside because an AED is of no use if it is inside a locked building.
A SCA can happen to anyone of any age, at any time and anywhere. Everyone should know where their nearest AED is so that in the event of a SCA, they can use it to help save a life.