Public access to a defibrillator is a postcode lottery, and the Government must act
Writing for PoliticsHome, Labour MP Maria Eagle urges the Government to support the defibrillator availability bill to ensure better access to the life-saving equipment in schools and key public spaces.
In 2011, my constituents Mark and Joanne King lost their son Oliver. He was just 12 years old when he tragically died following a sudden heart attack during a school swimming competition. Oliver had a hidden heart condition, and without access to a defibrillator at the school his chances of survival on that dreadful day were dramatically reduced.
On Monday, at the start of the week in which Oliver would have reached his 18th birthday if he had lived, I will lead a debate in the House of Commons on the availability of defibrillators in public areas. The reason is simple; defibrillators save lives.
Just eight of the eighty-two people each day who suffer an out of hospital cardiac arrest survive. Access to a defibrillator can dramatically increase these chances. Without defibrillation until emergency services arrive, chances of survival with CPR alone don’t exceed 20%. With rapid and effective defibrillation, survival rates can exceed 50%. Immediate action is vital. A study by the British Heart Foundation found that for every single minute without defibrillation and CPR, chances of survival fall by 7-10%.
Currently, there’s no law which requires all schools and key public areas to have a defibrillator available. This has to change. Without legislation, public access to a defibrillator becomes a postcode lottery. The Government must act now to ensure schools and key public areas are equipped with this life-saving equipment.
Oliver’s case is sadly not unusual. Twelve young people tragically die every week in similar circumstances. 270 a year die whilst at school. We can, and must, do more to change that.
The Oliver King Foundation was set up by Mark and Joanne King in Oliver’s memory. They’ve done amazing work providing over 800 schools with defibrillators and training thousands of people in how to use them. In Liverpool, every school now has a defibrillator and the council is now extending this to include key public areas. But the rest of the UK needs to catch up.
Maria Caulfield MP lent her support to the Foundation by introducing their Defibrillator (Availability) Bill 2016-17 to Parliament in November last year. If passed, it will guarantee that all schools and key public areas are equipped with a defibrillator.
The 21st of January would have been Oliver’s 18th birthday. Now is the time for the Government to adopt this life-saving bill.
Maria Eagle is the Member of Parliament for Garston and Halewood.