NHS, Microsoft and BHF partner to create UK defibrillator map

Charlotte Edwards 8 August 2018 (Last Updated August 8th, 2018 15:11)

The NHS, Microsoft and the British Heart Foundation (BHF) have entered a partnership in which they plan to create a UK defibrillator map with the aim of saving thousands of patients from a fatal cardiac arrest.  

NHS, Microsoft and BHF partner to create UK defibrillator map
A lot of the UK’s defibrillators have been placed in phone boxes. Credit: David Dixon.

The NHS, Microsoft and the British Heart Foundation (BHF) have entered a partnership in which they plan to create a UK defibrillator map with the aim of saving thousands of patients from a fatal cardiac arrest.

The companies say they have a shared ambition to make the devices readily available for every out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. This is in response to figures showing that public-access defibrillators are used in less than 3% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests because their location is unknown to bystanders even though they could significantly increase survival chances.

The BHF says this is leading to a needless loss of lives, as 999 call handlers are unable to direct bystanders to their nearest defibrillator. The new defibrillator map will encompass detailed locations of defibrillators across the UK so that these directions can be given. It will also offer maintenance tips to those in charge of the devices.

BHF chief executive Simon Gillespie said: “Every minute without CPR or defibrillation reduces a person’s chance of surviving a cardiac arrest by around 10%. Thousands more lives could be saved if the public were equipped with vital CPR skills, and had access to a defibrillator in the majority of cases.

“Over the last five years we’ve made great progress in introducing CPR training in more schools. We now need to improve access to the tens of thousands of public defibrillators across the UK. 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, so they can direct bystanders to their nearest life-saving device in the event of a cardiac arrest.”

The network will be launched in spring 2019 and those responsible for their local defibrillator will be invited to register it through their local ambulance service. It will be piloted by West Midlands Ambulance Service and the Scottish Ambulance Service before being implemented across the rest of the UK.

Less than one in ten patients in the UK survive an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and 30,000 of these events occur every year. Survival rates are up to three times higher in countries where the public is better equipped to deal with a cardiac arrest.

Microsoft UK chief operating officer Clare Barclay said: “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. The impact of this project could be huge, but it’s just a small indication of the life-saving difference that innovative partnerships like this could make to the health of the nation.”

NHS England’s national medical director Professor Stephen Powis added: “Preventing heart failure and other cardiovascular illness is a priority for the NHS ten year plan. This innovative partnership will help people in every part of the country to access life-saving equipment, and will support NHS staff and the public when attempting to save the lives of the 30,000 people each year who suffer cardiac arrest out of hospital.”

Some ambulance services are currently able to accept direct registrations now and contact details can be found on the AACE website.