The NHS and several other organisations have joined forces to map all of the UK’s defibrillators, which they hope will increase the chances of survival for the thousands of people who suffer a cardiac arrest every year.
The British Heart Foundation, which is taking part in the project, said public access defibrillators are used in fewer than 3% of the estimated 30,000 cardiac arrests that happen out of hospital every year, often due to bystanders or ambulance staff not knowing where they are located.
It said tens of thousands of the devices have been installed in workplaces, train stations and other public places, but 999 call handlers are currently unable to direct those helping the individual to the nearest defibrillator as there is no centralised register.
NHS England, NHS Scotland, the British Heart Foundation and Microsoft services provider New Signature will work together to map the defibrillators for the emergency services over the next 12 months.
Defibrillator owners will be invited to log their device online and will be able to join a network of owners to support each other in ensuring they are well maintained.
The project will begin in the regions covered by the West Midlands Ambulance Service and Scottish Ambulance Services, before being rolled out across the UK.
The bodies hope the project will improve the survival rate of those who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest – currently just one in 10 people survive.
British Heart Foundation chief executive Simon Gillespie said defibrillators provide cardiac arrest patients a vital lifeline until the ambulance services arrive.
“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,” he said.
Pauline Howie, chief executive of Scottish Ambulance Service, said: “The role of the public in a cardiac arrest scenario should not be underestimated. Ambulance services aim to get to cardiac arrests, the ultimate medical emergency, as quickly as possible. But every minute counts, meaning CPR and public access defibrillators provide a lifeline for victims.”