Parveen is talking to her medicines counter assistant, Mirabelle, about having a defibrillator installed outside the pharmacy...

“I went for a swim last night and the pool has just had a defibrillator installed,” says Mirabelle. “Do you think we should have one, perhaps on the outside wall of the pharmacy? The nearest hospital is miles away, so it would take a long time for an ambulance to get here if someone was poorly. Perhaps a few of us could learn how to use it. Defibrillators are pretty technical pieces of kit so I’m not sure we could easily train to use one,” replies Parveen. “They are also expensive and it is not like we are swimming in excess cash. But let me look into it.”

Answer

As a first step, Parveen should contact her local ambulance service. They will be able to tell her if there is already a public access defibrillator (PAD) located nearby, and if not, advise her on which kind to buy and where to place it.

While PADs are very easy to use, so no training is necessary (they are automated and give spoken instructions), many people choose to undertake a short course on lifesaving skills that includes cardiopulmonary resuscitation, as well as how to use a defibrillator, so they have the confidence to tackle an emergency situation should one arise.

Buying an automated external defibrillator (AED) plus the appropriate storage cabinet is not cheap, but grants are available that will supplement money generated via fundraising activities. The criteria to be met for an application for funding to be considered include:
• Having the device freely accessible 24/7 in an unlocked and uncoded cabinet
• A clear need for the device (e.g. a rural area or a place where there is high footfall)
• A commitment to train the local community on CPR.

The bigger picture

The AED has been described as the single most important development in the treatment of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) – a condition that affects around 60,000 people in the UK every year.

The simplicity of the device means that someone with little or no training can restart the heart of an individual who has experienced a SCA, significantly improving survival rates.

However, an AED has to be used in the first couple of minutes after collapse, so over the last few years there has been a push to install AEDs in places where they can be accessed quickly and easily.

Extend your learning

• Do you understand the difference between a SCA and a heart attack? Check by reading the information at heartrhythmalliance.org/files/files/aa/for-patients/SCA_and_Heart_Attack(1).pdf
• Where is your nearest AED located? Many are logged on the HeartSafe website – enter your postcode into the search facility at heartsafe.org.uk/AED-Locations
• Find out how to apply for a grant for a PAD at bhf.org.uk/heart-health/how-to-save-a-life/defibrillators/applying-for-a-public-access-defibrillator

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