Public defibrillators around the country are to be mapped as part of a new drive to boost their use, involving the NHS, Microsoft and a leading charity.
They have joined forces in response to figures showing public defibrillators are used in less than 3% of cardiac arrests, reducing the survival chances of tens of thousands of people every year.
“This innovative project will give every ambulance service immediate access to the location of defibrillators”
The British Heart Foundation highlighted that one of the biggest barriers to defibrillator use was the unknown location of many of the devices.
This was despite tens of thousands of defibrillators being placed prominently in workplaces, train stations, leisure centres and public places across the country, it noted.
The confusion over location was leading to a “needless loss of lives”, because 999 call handlers were unable to direct bystanders to their nearest defibrillator when needed, warned the charity.
The BHF, NHS England, NHS Scotland and Microsoft will now work together over the next 12 months to map all of UK’s defibrillators.
As a result, the partnership will seek to develop a “comprehensive network” of defibrillators across the UK that can be used by ambulance services.
The new network will be piloted by the West Midlands Ambulance Service and the Scottish Ambulance Service.
When the network is launched, defibrillator owners, or “guardians”, will be invited to register their defibrillator online.
The move is part of a strategy to improve the country’s poor rates of cardiac arrest survival by increasing the application of CPR and defibrillation to patients and improving post-resuscitation care.
There are over 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests every year in the UK, but less than one in 10 people survive.
Survival rates were up to three times higher in countries where the public is better equipped in recognising and dealing with cardiac arrests, noted those behind the initiative.
BHF chief executive Simon Gillespie said: “These life-saving devices can provide a vital lifeline for cardiac arrest victims until ambulance services arrive.
“This innovative project will give every ambulance service immediate access to the location of defibrillators in their areas,” he said.
Clare Barclay, chief operating officer at Microsoft UK, said: “There is huge potential to transform healthcare provision by combining the power of technology with the expertise of the dedicated staff within the NHS and other leading health organisations.”
She added: “This innovative partnership could quickly equip 999 call handlers with information that could mean the difference between life and death for someone suffering a cardiac arrest.”