Shocking way to plug the gap in response times

Community fundraisers and first responders in north Norfolk are stepping in to provide defibrillators in a bid to give cardiac arrest victims the best chance of survival – and every rural community is being urged to get involved.

The news of three new defibrillators for the area comes just days after it was revealed the ambulance service is dramatically underperforming in responding to 999 calls in north Norfolk.

After a year-long fundraising campaign, Sheringham has joined the growing list of towns and villages with a publicly-accessible defibrillator, which was unveiled during carnival week.

Staff and holidaymakers at Kelling Heath Holiday Park have also raised more than �3,200 which will pay for another two defibrillators to be installed in remote areas near Holt.

In Norfolk, approximately 400 people die every year from cardiac arrest.

The survival rate for someone suffering cardiac arrest is 5pc with CPR alone. This rises dramatically with defibrillation, with some studies putting it as high as more than 70pc.

So far there are 16 publicly-accessible defibrillators in Norfolk. They are in Hellesdon, Weybourne, Thompson, Holt, Freethorpe, Acle, Corpusty, East Runton, High Kelling, Briston, Cantley, Sea Palling, Melton Constable, Reedham and Wymondham.

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Both Holt and Sheringham Community First Responders have been appealing for help to raise money for extra public 'heart-start' machines to be installed in remote and rural areas.

David Hunt, a Holt and Communities First Response volunteer, said: 'It costs around �1,600 to install a new cabinet and heart defibrillator, but these machines make all the difference between life and death for someone suffering a cardiac arrest.

'The defibrillators are available for public use and can be used by anyone who is first on the scene. An untrained passer-by phones 999 to get a keypad number to release the machine, and uses it on the patient until the emergency services arrive.'

Mr Hunt added: 'It's all about buying time in these rural areas. It is vital that the community can take responsibility and intervene to help someone in need in the 20 minutes before the ambulance arrives. A person's survival rate decreases approximately 10pc for every minute that passes without intervention, so the more we can do to help those in rural, remote areas, the better.'

Sheringham's first defibrillator is housed in a purpose-built, key code-secured box outside the Age UK Day Centre in Cremer Street and is accessed by calling 999.

Angela Reith, manager of the centre, kicked off the fundraising last summer and Age UK matched her raffle ticket-selling efforts pound for pound. She said: 'I wanted to be able to offer a high level of support and reassurance to my day centre's clients. I can't say we're looking forward to using it, but feel we are completely prepared.'

Norfolk charity Shocking Now trained local people in the machine's use.

Kevin Theodore, trustee of Shocking Now, said: 'Once you lift the lid, a voice tells you exactly what to do. Guidance from the UK Resuscitation Council confirms that it can be used safely and effectively even without training, but we have found that some people like to feel prepared, so we are qualified to show them how it works.'

Villages near Kelling Heath such as Bodham, near Holt, are being considered for the other two new defibrillators.

Jonathan Fox, from the Association of Professional Ambulance Personnel union, said: 'Community responders and publicly-accessed defibrillators are an important part of the chain of survival for someone who suffers an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, but they should be an addition to and not a substitute for a speedy ambulance response.'

Andrew Barlow, community partnership manager for the East of England Ambulance Service, said: 'The more of these automatic defibrillators in the community the better as they really can make the difference between life and death.'

kim.briscoe@archant.co.uk

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