The ambulance service cannot always save lives without support from the public and we need to change people’s perception regarding their willingness, confidence and ability to render aid to someone who suffers a cardiac arrest. Doing something is better than doing nothing, and you could help save a life.
There are approximately 59,000 out of hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA) in England each year and 28,000 attempts to resuscitate people. Within the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) there are around 3,500 - 4,000 OHCA resuscitation incidents each year.
A cardiac arrest is a time critical medical emergency where the heart stops beating effectively and abruptly. When this happens, blood stops pumping round the body and the brain is starved of oxygen which causes the person to fall unconscious and stop breathing.
The overall aim of Saving Lives Together is to increase cardiac arrest survival rates in the South West. Across the UK, current survival rates are around an average of 9%. This is compared to more than 20% in other countries around the world.
SWASFT has launched Saving Lives Together as a public engagement campaign, aiming to compliment national initiatives from organisations such as the British Heart Foundation and build on the fantastic results that have been achieved by the “Restart a Heart” campaign (an annual initiative led by the Resuscitation Council (UK).
The two main areas of focus for the Saving Lives Together campaign are aligned to the well-established Resuscitation Council’s ‘Chain of Survival’:
- Early recognition and call for help – to prevent cardiac arrest
- Early CPR* – to buy time
- Early defibrillation – to restart the heart
- Post resuscitation care – to restore quality of life
It is globally recognised within healthcare, that unless action is taken within the first two links of this chain, survival following an OHCA is extremely unlikely. For every minute that a cardiac arrest patient does not receive CPR and defibrillation, their chance of survival reduces by 10%.
This ‘Chain of Survival’ (particularly the first three links) needs to be more widely embedded in public consciousness. Greater awareness amongst the general public on how to recognise and manage cardiac arrest through the use of CPR and public access defibrillators is vital to establish an improvement in cardiac arrest survival rates
Whilst the Saving Lives Together is providing generalised engagement and awareness activities across the South West, the South Western Ambulance Charity is looking for funding to support the expansion of these existing activities to focus on communities 'not yet reached' which have not been accessed through the general campaign.
The definition of ‘not yet reached' is broad and refers to both geographic area and beneficiaries. The South Western Ambulance Service covers the most rural locations in the UK, serving a total population of over 5.5 million with an estimated influx of over 23 million visitors each year. The South Wester Ambulance Charity is focusing funding efforts on raising awareness of CPR and Defibrillation in rural areas, areas of deprivation and amongst communities where barriers such as language, culture or having a protected characteristic (as per the Equality Act 2010) increases the challenge of accessibility and engagement.
The funding will be used to purchase and develop equipment and materials to support CPR awareness sessions. A better understanding of basic first aid and CPR will give people the confidence to know that doing something is better than doing nothing. In addition, the funding received will be used to provide these ‘hard to reach’ groups with materials and equipment to keep and use within their communities to increase resilience and self-sufficiency.
* CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It’s a life saving medical procedure which is given to someone who is in cardiac arrest. It helps to pump blood around the person's body when their heart can’t.