Alex Mason, community resuscitation officer for NEAS, is pictured with Rob Hodgson (front) and, left to right, Sam Holden, Michael Paffett and Joy Fletcher

Life-saving initiative for the Tees area

New scheme assists communities most at need to purchase defibrillators

Hundreds more lives will be saved across the Tees Valley in a new partnership between the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) and Labmask.

Money generated by the Labmask initiative, based at the Stokesley-based company Labman Automation, which supplied crucial personal protective equipment to the NHS at the height of the pandemic, is being ploughed back in to community resuscitation equipment across the Tees area

The investment of £50,000 of Labmask funds over the next 14 months, together with NEAS charitable Trust Fund backing, will go towards helping communities purchase their own defibrillators and learn vital CPR skills and knowledge.

Fewer than one in 20 people currently survive a cardiac arrest in the North East. This is the lowest rate in England lower than other European countries where the rate of survival is as much as one in two in some places. Amongst the factors that contribute to this is people not recognising that someone’s heart has stopped, people’s reluctance to start CPR and also the lack of early access to a defibrillator.

Rob Hodgson, Senior Manager at Labman Automation and Labmask representative said: “We were looking to assist with a project that not only helps health care professionals, but also helps the community. This partnership with the NEAS allows us to ensure the North East is as safe as we can make it.”

The company has manufactured hundreds of thousands of plastic face shields for hospitals to help with protection against COVID. They chose to work with NEAS because the ambulance service’s charitable fund had already been targeting areas where defibrillators were lacking in the community and supporting residents with a grant to support the purchase of life-saving equipment.

Kevin Scollay, group director of finance for North East Ambulance Service, said: “By working together we can help fund public access defibrillators in areas we have identified as being in most need, as well as delivering familiarisation sessions to the communities, showing people how to deliver CPR and use a defibrillator, reducing peoples’ fears and anxiety about around cardiac arrest.” 

Within five minutes of someone’s heart stopping beating (cardiac arrest), there can be irreversible brain damage as a result of a lack of blood and oxygen. And for every minute that passes without CPR (pumping on the person’s chest) and defibrillation, the chance of survival decreases between 7 to 10 percent.

Alex Mason, community resuscitation officer for NEAS, said: “The chance of survival increases just by someone realising what’s happened and calling an ambulance quickly. If they then start chest compressions, they are buying time and keeping the person’s brain supplied with blood and oxygen; and increase that chance of survival by 8 percent. If there is a defibrillator available and someone uses it, the chance increases by 20 percent.”

The aim of this life-saving scheme is to increase the number defibrillators across the Tees Valley area where they are most needed. As communities in these identified areas come forward, NEAS and money from Labmask will partially fund the purchase of new defibrillators to be stored in weatherproof cabinets fixed to the outside of buildings. They will be available to the public 24 hours a day by calling 999. In addition, information and training for defibrillator use will be provided via familiarisation sessions, online videos and leaflets.

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