Should All UK Schools Have Defibrillators?

We don’t often bring up political news but we’re making exceptions here as long overdue changes could be ahead for schools after the education secretary, Gavin Williamson recently met with campaigners calling for it to be mandatory that all UK schools have an AED on their premises.

It’s completely understandable why this campaign exists too because the chance of survival drops by up to 10% for every minute that someone is in cardiac arrest without CPR and defibrillator access.

The current statistics around Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) are gloomy but they really needn’t be this way – it is the world’s leading cause of death and if we look at just the UK, SCA kills over 60,000 people every year, including 270 children in schools. 

Sadly, more than 9 out of 10 people in the UK don’t survive an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and in most of those situations, one of two factors could have made a difference:

  • When someone has a cardiac arrest, not many people are prepared to perform CPR on them.
  • There wasn’t access to a defibrillator.

Having defibrillators in schools could positively impact the death toll significantly, as the chances of survival increase to 74% if defibrillation is implemented within the first 3 minutes – which would be a stark 5% chance of survival without the defibrillator.

What many people don’t realise is that some defibrillators such as the Lifeline View provide steps so simple to follow that a child could follow the instructions with confidence – they are designed to take the fear and confusion out of such a life-saving process.

Schools And Compulsory Defibrillators – Potential Law Change

After meeting with Mark King, head of the campaign and founder of The Oliver King Foundation, Gavin Williamson announced that “The government is now looking at changing the law to ensure “all schools” have defibrillators”.

The meeting with Mr King had focused on “the need for us to do as much as possible in order to encourage schools to have defibrillators”, and the education secretary told the House of Commons how it had been incredibly moving to meet with Mark King, whose 12-year-old son Oliver died of Sudden Cardiac Arrest during a school swimming lesson in 2011.

Mr King’s mission is that defibrillators “Should be as common in public buildings as fire extinguishers” because “Had the swimming pool had one my son would still be here.” He also shared how his charity is responsible for distributing defibrillators to more than 5,500 schools and gyms and has so far saved 56 lives.

Taking Action Saves Lives 

Mark King, who has been campaigning for AEDs to be in schools since Oliver died in 2011, says the government’s plan for defibrillators in all schools is “a massive step”. Oliver’s heart condition was completely undetected until his seizure happened in the middle of a school swimming lesson in Liverpool.

Mr King shared with Gavin Williamson that “Oliver was “beautiful inside and out and as a dad, you don’t want any parent to go through what we went through”. He has also called repeatedly for future legislation to ensure all premises have defibrillators next to fire extinguishers.

More are taking action to highlight the importance of this change:

  • Jamie Carragher, a former Liverpool and England footballer who supports the foundation with his own charity, tweeted: “Mark King and The OK Foundation have worked tirelessly on this campaign for a decade, it looks like that hard work is going to finally pay off.”
  • Raheem Sterling and Moeen Ali are part of a number of medical professionals and players who signed a letter written to the prime minister directly this summer, supporting Mr King’s campaign.
  • Former Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba, also signed the letter after surviving a cardiac arrest in 2012 on the pitch, following the use of a defibrillator
  • A scheme from the Premier League, the Football Association and Football Foundation has distributed about 2,000 defibrillators to English grassroots football clubs.

Sales of defibrillators also rose after footballer Christian Eriksen survived a cardiac arrest mid-field during a televised Euro 2020 game.

His life was saved by the electric shock given to his heart with a defibrillator and CPR administered by two heart specialists who happened to be spectating, so having more of these devices in public sports arenas and schools could provide vital life-saving assistance during those critical first few minutes.

The Law Regarding Defibrillators In Schools May Finally Be Changing

The draft law which was put forward by DUP MP Jim Shannon requires the “installation of automated external defibrillators in public buildings, sporting facilities, schools, higher education and other education and skills facilities”. Because the draft law is a private members bill, these rarely progress beyond their early stages, so Williamson’s statement was that  “We’ll be looking at changing the regulations that are underpinned by secondary legislation to ensure that all schools do have defibrillators in future and hopefully prevent such tragedy visiting more families.

This is also why ministers are being put under increasing pressure to ensure all schools have a defibrillator – including from the Oliver King Foundation. Sudden Cardiac Arrest is caused by chaotic electrical activity in the heart – it is unannounced and needs immediate attention.

This can only be treated with the electric shock administered during defibrillation so automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) are very literally the difference between life and death in this situation.

The statistics would change drastically with the provision of easy to use defibrillators and enhanced awareness that any bystander could administer defibrillation – you don’t have to be a trained professional.

The very nature of an emergency often throws people into a panic so having access to a defibrillator in a school, which has been voted time and time again by independent studies to be the easiest AED on the market to use – even without training – really does have the potential to save lives on the spot because it does all of the thinking for you.

Putting this into the hands of adults, children and staff in schools, libraries, swimming pools – any place where most people would be untrained in CPR would drastically increase survival rates of SCA victims.

If you’d like more information on how you can buy or rent defibrillators for your premises, get in touch here and our team will happily talk you through your options. 

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