Shaun Bailey is a London wide member of the London Assembly.
My latest report, Never Miss A Beat, calls for the London-wide adoption of a scheme that could save the lives of dozens of Londoners every year. Placing defibrillators in disused and redundant phone boxes is a fantastic way of getting life-saving devices into highly visible and easily accessible locations. My research found 10,211 people suffered a cardiac arrest in London in 2014/15 and, despite the London Ambulance Service having some of the best performance ratings in the country, survival rates remain as low as nine per cent.
Speed of treatment is absolutely vital during a cardiac arrest and every minute counts. Swift access to a defibrillator takes the chances of restarting the patient’s heart to 76 per cent and doubles their chances of survival from 27 to 58 per cent. For every minute the patient fails to receive treatment however, their chances of survival decrease by 20-23 per cent. The difference between having access to a defibrillator and not receiving treatment could be the difference between life and death for a patient in the space of just a few minutes. The period of time between a cardiac arrest being triggered and the arrival of a paramedic is therefore absolutely vital.
My report calls on the Mayor to encourage a widespread adoption of a scheme that could dramatically improve access to these devices in emergency situations. The Adopt a Kiosk scheme, which has already been rolled out in some villages across the UK, enables communities to purchase their local phone box from BT for just £1. The installation of a defibrillator costs an additional £1,000 – an achievable amount for a group of local businesses or crowdfund. The Community Heartbeat Trust, a charity dedicated to improving responses to cardiac arrests, co-ordinates the purchase and installation of these tamper-proof defibrillators.
This is an excellent example of how communities can be empowered to deliver important facilities in their area that the local authority does not necessarily have the function to provide. There are countless examples of defibrillators being used to save the life of someone who has collapsed in a public space. If we want to tackle the dismal survival rates for individuals suffering such serious medical emergencies, we need to make these devices more accessible and in a greater number of locations.
As well as encouraging the implementation of defibrillators in phone boxes, it is also important to continue to push for a greater number of public buildings to be fitted with the devices. I have asked the Mayor to lobby for all public sector buildings to be fitted with defibrillators so we can lead by example. Getting the devices out into the public solves only half of the problem however. We also need to increase the number of people who feel confident to use them and deliver CPR in the event of a cardiac arrest. Many people feel understandably reticent at the prospect of having to intervene at the scene of a cardiac arrest and we need to implement policies to change this attitude to lead to more lives being saved.
That is why my report, which has been praised by the Mayor of London, calls on him to lobby to make it compulsory for all state-funded secondary schools to train students in first aid and CPR. I will be pushing the Mayor to adopt my recommendations, which I believe could have a positive impact on cardiac arrest survival rates in the capital.