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It’s time for government action to shine a light on sudden cardiac arrest

A defibrillator (Credit: Stephen Sykes / Alamy Stock Photo)

4 min read

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a silent killer that claims the lives of 100,000 people annually in the United Kingdom, surpassing cancer as the nation’s leading cause of death.

It’s a grim reality: if a sudden cardiac arrest victim does not receive CPR or defibrillation within 10 minutes, they won’t survive. This is why we must urgently address the devastating impact of SCA and demand immediate government action to improve survival rates.

One alarming fact that cannot be ignored is that 72 per cent of cardiac arrests occur within the home, where lives are shattered with little to no warning. Shockingly, there is no legislation mandating the presence of defibrillators in new buildings, leaving families vulnerable to the tragic consequences of a life-threatening condition that can take a loved one in just under 10 minutes.

Countries like Australia and Italy have already taken bold steps to address this issue. In Australia legislation mandates the installation of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in certain commercial buildings based on specific criteria such as floor area and recent works done to the building. This legislation ensures that there is at least one defibrillator available for every 1,200 square metres of floor area in mandated buildings. 

Just as fire extinguishers are mandated, defibrillators should be equally prioritised

By enacting legislation to ensure the presence of defibrillators in certain residential buildings, Australia has taken a significant step towards safeguarding lives and increasing the chances of survival in emergency situations. It is time for the UK to follow suit. 

By taking such decisive action and implementing this mandate, we would be proactively safeguarding the lives of countless individuals. 

Building codes are in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of occupants, and it is only fitting that these regulations encompass the provision of essential emergency medical equipment. Just as fire extinguishers are mandated, defibrillators should be equally prioritised as an indispensable tool to combat cardiac arrests within the home.

As the Member of Parliament representing Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke, I have been inundated with messages from constituents sharing their struggles in obtaining defibrillators. 

One particular story that stands out is that of John and Sue Cole, residents of a retirement estate where the majority of individuals are over 60 years old. Despite their tireless efforts, the estate was denied a defibrillator due to concerns surrounding training and liability issues. Sadly, the fear of potential lawsuits took precedence over the potential to save lives. 

I have also been working with members of Linley and Kidsgrove RUFC, a thriving local rugby club, who have come to me to seek my support in getting a defibrillator. Given that there has been a rise in the number of cardiac arrests at sports events, they want a defibrillator at their ground to ensure the safety of their players. These stories highlight the powerlessness individuals face without adequate legislation in place. It is disappointing that the residents of Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke have to fight for access to a life-saving device, while in Australia, defibrillators are mandatory in residential aged care facilities.

While the government’s commitment to providing 20,000 defibrillators to schools by the end of this year is commendable, we cannot stop there. We must prioritise legislation that mandates access to defibrillators beyond just schools. The reason is simple: defibrillators save lives.  

Beyond legislation, raising awareness about the importance of defibrillators is paramount. Communities must be educated on the life-saving potential of these devices, fostering a culture of preparedness and quick response. Public campaigns, training programmes and widespread dissemination of knowledge can empower individuals to take immediate action when faced with cardiac emergencies.

Every life is precious, and we cannot afford to lose any more loved ones to sudden cardiac arrest. By learning from the examples set by countries like Australia and Italy, and enacting legislation that requires defibrillators in certain residential buildings, we can save lives, prevent tragedies, and create safer communities for all. 

Jonathan Gullis, Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent North

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