Leading charities and health organisations urge North East defibrillator owners to register devices on new database to help save lives

Have you registered your defibrillator?

Leading charities and health organisations are urging defibrillator owners in the North East of England to register their devices on a new national database, called The Circuit, which could help save thousands of lives from cardiac arrests in the coming years. 

There are around 2,100 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the North East of England each year, but just one in 16 people survive. Every minute that passes without CPR or defibrillation reduces the chances of survival by up to 10 per cent, but immediate CPR and defibrillation can more than double the chances of survival. 

The British Heart Foundation (BHF), Resuscitation Council UK (RCUK) St John Ambulance and Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE), warn that the low survival rate is likely to be in part because public access defibrillators are used in less than one in 10 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.

This is often because 999 call handlers aren’t always aware that a defibrillator is available nearby, because the ambulance service hasn’t been told about it. If they don’t know it is there, they can’t direct someone at the scene to go and get it while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

To help save more lives, the BHF, RCUK, St John Ambulance and AACE are urging defibrillator guardians - people who own and maintain defibrillators in places such as offices, communities, shopping centres and leisure centres, as well as in public places - to register them on a pioneering database called The Circuit: The national defibrillator network.

While ambulance services have previously had their own regional databases, The Circuit will eventually replace these with a new national database that lets the ambulance services see defibrillators across the UK once it has been rolled out. This will allow them to direct people to the nearest defibrillator when somebody is having a cardiac arrest.

The Circuit could help to save thousands of lives – but it is vital that as many defibrillators as possible are registered on the database for it to work effectively.  It is estimated that there are tens of thousands of defibrillators which are still to be registered on the new system in the UK. To make sure opportunities to save lives aren’t being missed, the organisations are aiming to see 70,000 additional defibrillators unknown to The Circuit registered by the end of the year. 

Lee Stephenson, from Newcastle, wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the help of a defibrillator. In March 2020, Lee began experiencing chest pains – but he believed they couldn’t possibly be signs of a heart attack. He went to bed, but his wife Amy soon realised that he was unresponsive. Lee had suffered a cardiac arrest, where his heart suddenly stopped pumping blood around his body.

Amy called 999 and with the guidance of an ambulance call handler, she used CPR on her husband, who was just 31 years old at the time. Shortly after, an ambulance arrived, with paramedics taking over CPR and using a defibrillator to shock Lee’s heart several times. They were able to revive Lee, and he was then rushed to the coronary care unit of the Freeman Hospital.

An angiogram showed that one of the arteries in Lee’s heart was blocked, which had caused the heart attack leading to the cardiac arrest. A stent was fitted to widen the artery and help the blood flow to his heart, and Lee remained in hospital for five days.

Lee had to return to hospital in October last year to have further stents fitted. Since, he has been doing well – and Lee and Amy, who live in Gosforth, were even able to celebrate their wedding in June this year.

Lee, now aged 32, said: “When we got married, I was so glad to have finally got that ring on Amy’s finger – and our wedding day was extra emotional because I just kept thinking I might not have been here to marry the woman I love. 

“Now, when I wake up, I’m just grateful for everything I have in life. It certainly gives you a new outlook. It is all thanks to Amy’s swift CPR and the help of the defibrillator that I am still here today.

“I know too well that defibrillators are a vital part of the chain of survival when someone has a cardiac arrest. That’s why it’s so important that the ambulance service knows where public access devices are, so that they can be used quickly and effectively.

“I would urge every defibrillator guardian in the North East to register their devices on The Circuit, as it could make the difference in helping to save a life.”

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, Chief Executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: “Every second counts when someone has a cardiac arrest and, alongside CPR, prompt use of a defibrillator is critical in giving them the best chance of survival. To put it simply, knowing where the nearest defibrillator is could be the difference between life and death.

“The Circuit is pioneering technology which will help emergency services direct bystanders more quickly to a defibrillator when someone collapses with a cardiac arrest. But for The Circuit to save lives, it is vital that the tens of thousands of unregistered defibrillators across the UK are put on the system.

“If you, or somebody you know is a defibrillator guardian, then we urge you to register your device on The Circuit. You could help save a life.”

Alex Mason, community resuscitation officer at North East Ambulance Service, said: “As we know, defibrillators save lives but to ensure that this happens, the ambulance service needs to know where they are.

“We would encourage every community group, every parish council, every organisation and every business that has a defibrillator to register them on The Circuit so that if someone has a cardiac arrest, they can receive early defibrillation which is the key to successful resuscitation.”

It’s free to register your defibrillator onto The Circuit, and you only have to do it once. You can also register multiple defibrillators if you are the guardian to more than one.

Visit TheCircuit.UK for more information or to register your defibrillator.  

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Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

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