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Defibrillators (Availability)

Volume 651: debated on Wednesday 19 December 2018

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require the provision of defibrillators in education establishments, and in leisure, sports and certain other public facilities; to make provision for training persons to operate defibrillators; to make provision for funding the acquisition, installation, use and maintenance of defibrillators; and for connected purposes.

This is my second attempt to bring in this Bill, as it fell last year when the general election was called. It is imperative that we push for the mandatory installation of these life-saving devices in our public buildings. As I said during Prime Minister’s questions, each and every week 12 young people die as a result of a sudden cardiac arrest. If they are in a shockable rhythm, around 80% of them could be saved by the use of a defibrillator.

The purpose of the Bill is therefore to increase rates of survival from cardiac arrest, as currently the UK’s record is dismal. According to the British Heart Foundation, almost 30,000 cardiac arrests a year happen outside hospitals, and less than 10% of those people survive. In fact, in some parts of England, the survival rate is as low as 2%. Behind each of those statistics are people, families and communities.

A cardiac arrest can happen for many reasons, from trauma right through to congenital heart defects, but if a person is in a shockable rhythm, using a defibrillator can increase their chances of survival by as much as 80%. However, for a defibrillator to be successful, quick access to it is essential, because minutes count. If too much time elapses, a shockable rhythm turns to a non-shockable rhythm and the chances of survival decrease rapidly. If a person’s heart is not restarted within four minutes, their chances of living are reduced by almost 80%. Even the speediest paramedic in the country would struggle to get to someone in four minutes. That is why having easy, accessible defibrillators is so crucial.

Across the UK, we have laws mandating the availability of other life-saving equipment, such as seatbelts, fire extinguishers and smoke alarms, but there is not a single piece of legislation requiring defibrillators, which could restart the hearts of 12 young people each week.

My passion for this subject was started by Jessica Batchelor, the former Young Mayor of Seaford in my constituency. At the age of 15, she witnessed at first hand a close family friend die of a sudden cardiac arrest, and no defibrillator was available. As the town’s Young Mayor, she raised thousands of pounds to ensure that there are defibrillators in Seaford, and she lobbied me as the local MP to do something about a change in the law. Councillor Merle Phillips in my other town of Polegate is currently raising thousands of pounds, because the town is divided by a level crossing and only one side has a defibrillator.

The aim of the Bill is to ensure that schools, sports facilities and public buildings, in every town and village in the country, all have defibrillators as standard that can be accessed 24 hours a day. As the Prime Minister said during Question Time, not every village has a school or leisure centre, but they do all need a designated defibrillator, and it is important that people know where the equipment is.

Currently, there is a postcode lottery, because even in schools, despite the Department for Education’s efforts, we know of only 1,389 defibrillators in schools in England. We know of one in Northern Ireland, and we do not know of any in Scotland. That is not to say they do not exist, but without this register, we are none the wiser where this life-saving equipment is.

The Bill also aims to increase the use of defibrillators, because it is important not just to have defibrillators but to make sure they are used when they are needed. Residents in my villages tell me that they would be afraid to use a defibrillator and that they think they need training to do so, although nothing could be further from the truth. All a person has to do is to stick the two pads on someone’s chest and turn the machine on. The machine will tell them exactly what to do, without training, but people are afraid to use them. The Bill’s aim is not to state that only trained people should use defibrillators but to mandate training for local communities with every installation so that people feel confident to use them.

I wonder how many Members of Parliament here today know how many defibrillators are on the parliamentary estate. There are 28 in total, in the House of Lords, the House of Commons, Norman Shaw North, Portcullis House and two in the Elizabeth Tower, but do Members know where the nearest defibrillator is to us right now? According to the intranet, it is in Member’s Lobby, but it took me, a Doorkeeper and a member of security four minutes to find it this morning. It is in a cupboard with no sign, and no one knew it was there. Those four minutes could cost someone’s life.

I will share the difference a defibrillator can make. This morning, I heard from Stuart Freeman, a constituent of my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat), whose daughter, aged just 18, suffered a cardiac arrest in March. She was given cardiopulmonary resuscitation and a defibrillator was available, and it saved her life. Serena has met my hon. Friend to plead the case for better training and for more access to defibrillators, and she is a great example of the difference defibrillators can make.

I therefore move that the Bill be introduced so we can mandate that defibrillators are installed across the whole UK in publicly accessible places and that training is available so that people know what to do in the event of a cardiac arrest and are not afraid to use defibrillators if they are needed. It is crucial to support the work of our many charities, such as the British Heart Foundation and St John Ambulance, to ensure we save as many lives as possible.

This week, 12 young people will die from a cardiac arrest, and 28,000 people will die from a cardiac arrest this year. Those lives could have been saved by the Bill, and I urge Members to support it.

Question put and agreed to.


That Jim Shannon, Stephen Twigg, Mr Edward Vaizey, Chris Green, Dr Philippa Whitford, Peter Aldous, Dr Lisa Cameron and Maria Caulfield present the Bill.

Maria Caulfield accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 25 January 2019, and to be printed (Bill 308).

Order. Before we proceed to the Standing Order No. 24 debate, I have now to announce the result of today’s deferred Divisions. In respect of the question relating to markets in financial instruments, the Ayes were 307 and the Noes were 215, so the Question was agreed to. In respect of the question relating to accounts and reports, the Ayes were 305 and the Noes were 216, so the Question was agreed to.