Automated External Defibrillators: Public Access — [Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 1:30 pm on 18th November 2021.

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Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering 1:30 pm, 18th November 2021

Before we begin, I am required to read out some advice from Mr Speaker. I remind Members that they are expected to wear face coverings when they are not speaking in the debate. That is in line with current Government guidance and that of the House of Commons Commission. I remind Members that they are asked by the House to have a covid lateral flow test twice a week if coming on to the parliamentary estate. That can be done at the testing centre in the House or at home. Please also give each other and members of staff space when seated and when entering and leaving the room.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered public access to Automatic External Defibrillators.

I am pleased to see many hon. Members from all political parties in the Chamber. I will also say, because I mean it, that I am especially pleased to see the Minister in her place and I look forward to her response. She understands the importance of the debate. Each hon. Member who speaks will illustrate the strength of the need for the Government and—dare I say it—civil servants to understand the importance of the debate. If they understand it, and if the Government press the issue, the general public will be glad to see it happening.

It is a pleasure to have this debate before the Second Reading of the Automated External Defibrillators (Public Access) Bill on 10 December. I thank the Backbench Business Committee for granting my application. The intention is to deliver public access to AEDs across the whole United Kingdom. All MPs will have at least one person in their constituency who has been saved by an AED.

I am grateful to Paul Howell who co-sponsored the debate and supported me in making it happen. I appreciate his co-operation, partnership and friendship. He made representations to the Committee alongside me and shared his own experience, which he will tell us about shortly. He has referred to the dedicated work of his constituent Councillor David Sutton-Lloyd, who advocates and lobbies with him about the importance of awareness and public availability of these lifesaving devices.

Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Independent, Rutherglen and Hamilton West

In my constituency, Councillor Mo Razzaq has been championing the cause and has fought hard to improve provision, which has led to a community defibrillator installation outside Strachan Craft Butchers in Blantyre. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that locally elected representatives can be instrumental to the cause?

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I appreciate the hon. Lady’s intervention about the importance of councillors, which I will return to, such as the friend of the hon. Member for Sedgefield. Communities lead on such matters.

There are many defibrillators across great parts of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but the Bill legislates so that everyone must have one in place. There is no cost to the Government; the Bill just puts in place the necessity to do it, rather than saying that it must come from community activities or otherwise.

To give an example from my constituency, in Newtownards some of the shop owners got together and spent £1,000 on a defibrillator, which is available on the high street in the middle of town. Every school in Northern Ireland has a defibrillator. As I will say later, I had a meeting with the former Secretary of State for Education about this issue, and he was committed to it in that role.

I am deeply encouraged by and thankful for the amount of support for the Bill on both sides of the House. I thank hon. Members present for contacting me to offer their support and for suggesting that I hold a debate before Second Reading. The purpose of the debate is to raise awareness and to build the campaign outside the House. We are all able to point to many cases. It is a fundamental aspect of our democracy that Members are able to scrutinise and debate proposed legislation. This debate offers Members the chance to do just that. I have worked with the Minister and look forward to continuing that work to bring this important piece of legislation forward—to bring this ideal into reality. If we can do that, and deliver across the United Kingdom, I will be more than pleased.

Since the Bill’s First Reading, I have been overwhelmed by the amount of support. Support has come from across the House—from all sides, from all parties—which is a reflection that it is welcomed across society. I thank all Members who wrote to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care urging him to engage on this issue. I was able to meet the Secretary of State to discuss the Bill and he demonstrated his sincere support, which we appreciate. The members of the public and people in industry who have contacted me—I have held meetings with as many as possible over the past few months—are the driving community spirit behind this Bill. Margaret Ferrier referred to that community spirit. It drives us as constituency MPs.

I thank the Minister for her invaluable contribution. I thank Tom, Sandra and Daniel from Stryker, Matthew Spencer from Healthcomms Consulting, Greg Quinn from BD, Sarah French from SADS UK, Gabriel Phillips of APCO Worldwide, Iain Lawrence from Aero Healthcare UK, Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK, as well as the Arrhythmia Alliance, the Community Heartbeat Trust and British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland. I suspect most of those bodies have already contacted the Minister, as well as her local community and other community groups.

I have been interviewed by university students about the Bill. This demonstrates the concern and interest of a wide cross-section of society about the need for public access to AEDs. I am very grateful for their interest and for broadening my knowledge. No matter what age I am, I will always learn. Today I learn more, and the next day more again. I have an open and active mind, and I want to respond and to learn things that we can use in this House for the benefit of everyone. They taught me about the consequences of a lack of awareness of and training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which added to my knowledge and understanding of sudden cardiac arrest.

There is momentum growing, not only from The Mirror, which has its own campaign. I turned on the Denmark match at the Euros and did not realise what had happened. I was trying to figure out what was happening on screen, as I had missed the first 30 minutes or so of the match. I thought somebody had got hit on the head by a bottle thrown from the crowd or something. The Danish team were all around Christian Eriksen, and I realised that he had had a heart attack. That day, an AED saved his life, because it was there. The Premier League has donated 2,000 AEDs or thereabouts, aiming for them to filter down to some of the junior clubs. There is definitely a growing momentum out there.

I want the debate today to be marked by hope and commitment, but also by respectful demand. We should all support this issue. I am in no doubt as to the wishes of people in the community with regard to the proposed legislation, its importance and the need to have it in place now.

Photo of Pauline Latham Pauline Latham Conservative, Mid Derbyshire

This is an incredibly important debate. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that AEDs should be put on public buildings? Those buildings are not open 24/7 and the AEDs should be accessible to the public 24 hours a day, so they should be on the outside of the building. Does he also agree that if every child in school had one hour’s training in CPR every year, we would have far fewer deaths? A combination of those two measures would save many more lives.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I do agree, and I think there would be a positive consensus in the House on that. I will give an example later of how an AED in a school saved a life in my constituency. I have two examples to illustrate the point.

I have seen over the past year how we have begun to address the importance of CPR training, to which the hon. Lady referred, and AED availability. I agree with her. The AED in Newtownards is in the street, but it could have been in the shop, which closes at six o’clock, so from 6 pm to 9 the next morning it would not have been available. The hon. Lady is right about what should be done.

Gavin Williamson backed the campaign, in his former role as Secretary of State for Education, to see all schools equipped with defibrillators. I believe that has been accomplished. I was encouraged by that, as we are trying to do it back home as well. However, it is not just about primary schools; it is about having AEDs available in streets, shopping centres, Government and local government buildings, and leisure centres. The Bill says that they should be available, but it does not put a cost factor on it. To make this happen is a win-win for the Minister and the Government.

I will explain where the campaign came from. The Minister will remember that we met with Mark King, of the Oliver King Foundation, whose 12-year-old son Oliver died of cardiac arrest during a school swimming lesson in 2011. I was incredibly moved, as I know the Minister was, by Mark’s experience. I was motivated too by his commitment to installing AEDs as far and wide across the community as possible. I know that he will be watching the debate today, and it will be a poignant one for him. Throughout this journey, I have stayed in touch with the foundation. I want to remind Members that this Bill was inspired by a young fella called Oliver King—a 12-year-old—and that we bring this debate to the Chamber in the hope of ensuring that Oliver’s legacy continues.

I am encouraged that in Northern Ireland, the Education (Curriculum) (CPR and AED) Bill has reached its second stage. This is not about politics; it is about the issue. That is the way I see things. I am a political person, of course, but what drives me is asking what is the right way to do things—that is important. One of my colleagues who is not of my party, Colin McGrath MLA, has brought the Bill to the Northern Ireland Assembly. We have worked together; he was keen to know what I was doing and I was keen to assist him back home in the Assembly. He has expressed his best wishes for the Bill, because it is just as important for children to acquire the CPR and AED skills that the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire referred to, as it is for adults. It is good to see a devolved Administration talking, taking this on and encouraging others to follow suit.

I believe in acts and not just words. Very shortly, Robert Largan and I will be doing an AED instruction session in the House, when we are able to. I am not sure when that will be, but we are hoping to do it this side of Christmas—the idea is to have a date that coincides with the Bill’s Second Reading on 10 December. It will be with David Higginbottom of Driver First Assist. My staff and I back home will also be taking part in a CPR and AED training session in the office in Newtownards led by Mrs Pauline Waring, superintendent of the St John Ambulance Dufferin Cadet Unit in Bangor. She, along with many other volunteer leaders, does incredible work with St John cadets by training them in first aid and lifesaving skills. It is always good to remember that the St John Ambulance is voluntarily staffed and funded by its own efforts; I encourage Members to engage with their local St John Ambulance if they can.

The hon. Member for Sedgefield, in his representation to the Committee for this debate, raised the very important point that many people are afraid of AEDs. They should not be, and that is why the training is important. Right away, people ask, “Will I know what to do?”. They will know what to do, because it is quite simple. I am not being smart by saying that; the instructions are really easy—they are easy for children to use as well, if that is necessary. People will learn that AEDs and CPR cannot do any harm; they can only do good. That is the motivation. I refer again to my message of hope for this debate, because anything that equips and inspires our young—anyone, in fact—to do good for the community carries the spirit of hope.

I want to raise some important facts about AEDs and CPR because they are two of the links in the “chain of survival” referred to in the UK Resuscitation Council’s updated guidelines. The third link is targeted temperature management. I want to touch on TTM here because I have been made aware of how this impacts on the recovery process. While the focus of this debate is on promoting the prevalence and availability of AEDs in public spaces and buildings, it remains essential that we consider the whole “chain of survival” once a person has experienced a cardiac arrest and been resuscitated.

In my constituency of Strangford one Saturday afternoon at a football match, one of the supporters collapsed at the side of the pitch. I spoke about this at the debate on the ten-minute rule Bill in February. What saved that man was the fact that the club had a defibrillator at all its matches. That is characteristic of all football matches in my region. People were able to resuscitate that man and he is alive today because the Portavogie football team and one of its staff members were able to get him back. He is alive today and can still attend football matches.

I want to give another example, but I am conscious of the time and other Members want to speak. A father was outside a school after leaving his children there. Unfortunately, he then had a heart attack. The children were inside and did not know what was happening to their daddy. The school had a defibrillator and, again, access to an AED saved that man’s life—he is alive today. Not only is he alive; he is able to continue taking his children to school.

I have given two examples, and I know that other Members will have lots of their own. It is hard not to get enthused about this issue, because of the clear benefits. I have referred to Christian Eriksen who collapsed at the football match. I acknowledge and praise the hard work and unfailing efforts of the Minister, who brought forward legislation in 2016 and 2019. Her support is needed if we are to get this done.

In May 2021, the Italian Government passed legislation requiring all offices open to the public with more than 15 employees, transport hubs, railway stations, airports, sports centres and educational establishments—schools, universities and all those places—to have public access to AEDs. In France, a Bill was passed in 2018 requiring almost all buildings where people gather to have access to an AED, including restaurants and shopping centres. It went a stage further by including holiday centres, places of worship, covered car parks and even mountain refuges. In Singapore, AEDs are carried in taxis.

In this House, we are at an important stage. We have more AEDs per head than across the whole of the country—that is not a criticism, Mr Hollobone. I am not saying we should not have them, but I would like to see that replicated everywhere else.

Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Independent, Rutherglen and Hamilton West

Following cardiac arrest, for each minute that passes the chances of survival fall by a massive 20%. Outside urban areas, and certainly in very rural locations, ambulance call-out times are often much longer than a matter than minutes. Does the hon. Member agree that provision needs to be prioritised in rural areas?

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I certainly do. Living in a rural area as I do, I know the hon. Lady is absolutely right. I would hope and expect that to be the case. I want to give others the opportunity to speak and will make my closing comments now.

Let us remember why we are here today. We are here because there are currently over 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the United Kingdom each year. Of those people, only one out of 10 will survive. I put it to the Minister, the Government and civil servants that I want—indeed, I think we all want—the other nine to survive as well. How can they survive? They can survive if we have access to AEDs in the places where people are, including in rural places. That is why we must push this forward.

What value do we put on a life? A typical defibrillator for the community can cost £800. The Library notes refer to the cost being between £600 and £2,500. However, across Northern Ireland, with the efforts of all the charities and groups I have mentioned, the defibrillators are already in place. I have also mentioned the efforts of organisations such as the Premier League and the Education Ministers here in Westminster and back home in Northern Ireland, and I suspect the same is true in Scotland and Wales as well. That is why, when the legislation is introduced, it will be to encourage those who have not yet gone to that extra stage to make sure that there are defibrillators. That is why this debate is incredibly important. If the cost is £600 or, as it is in Northern Ireland, £800, that is a small price for the Government and the private sector to pay potentially to save lives.

Is it not right that every leisure centre should have a defibrillator? Is it not right that there should be one in the centre of every town? Is it not right that defibrillators should be available and accessible in restaurants, and outside buildings for times when people are out and about, including to visit pubs and restaurants at night time?

There is a campaign called The Circuit, which registers all community AEDs. The sale of AEDs rose significantly after the Euros incident, and when AEDs are registered on a central database, emergency call handlers can direct callers to the nearest AED. The objective of this Bill is to have an AED within three minutes of everyone. That is what the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West wants to have; indeed, I think it is what we all want to have.

The Bill does not cost the Government anything. I have said it three times now; forgive me for saying it three times, but I want to emphasise it and say why it is important. Here is a Bill that delivers across the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This Bill will save lives, which is why it is important.

I say to my hon. Friends—all the Members here are my hon. Friends; to be truthful, on this issue all Members are probably hon. Friends whether they are in the Chamber or outside it—that this proposed legislation is neither to the left nor the right of politics. It is about what is right and what is wrong. It is about our whole society and equipping it with the means to save lives. Can there be a more civilised or caring thing to do? If words could make the difference—I will use a quotation, but before I do so I will say one other thing.

Today, this House can support the campaign to deliver AEDs, at no cost to the Government. AEDs save lives. That is the purpose of the Bill—it is to save lives. It is about those nine out of 10 who die every year because the AEDs were not available. It is as simple as that. It is about saving lives. For me, that is the crux of it.

I say that life and death are in the hands of the Minister and her Government, and they would seem to be in the hands of civil servants too. So what action will those hands—the hands of Ministers, the Government and civil servants—take in the coming days when the Bill comes back to the House on 10 December?

I will close with very poignant words. I know that the Minister knows that they refer to wee Oliver King. His dad said, and I have never forgotten it:

“Had the swimming pool had an AED, my son, Oliver, would still be here today.”

That is what we are here for.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

The debate can last until 3 o’clock. I am obliged to call the Front Benchers no later than 2.27 pm and the guideline limits are: 10 minutes for the Scottish National party; 10 minutes for Her Majesty’s Opposition; 10 minutes for the Minister; and then Jim Shannon will have three minutes at the end to sum up the debate. So, until 2.27 pm, we are in Back-Bench time. Four distinguished Back Benchers are seeking to catch my eye and we will start with Rob Roberts.

Photo of Rob Roberts Rob Roberts Independent, Delyn 1:53 pm, 18th November 2021

Thank you, Mr Hollobone, for calling me to speak and it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship.

I congratulate Jim Shannon on securing this debate on such an important matter; as he says, it is a matter of life and death. I have no doubt that this issue will draw agreement from all political parties, and such is the nature of the hon. Gentleman that he is one of the few Members who could rightly be called “my hon. Friend” by Members from all parties in the House.

It is vital that there is greater access to defibrillators in local communities across the whole of the UK. To save myself tripping over the word “defibrillators” for the next five minutes, I will shorten it to “defibs” from this point onwards.

Every year in Wales, around 6,000 people suffer from cardiac arrest. About half of those incidents occur outside hospitals, with just one in 20 of the people affected surviving. The National Institute for Health Research has found that survival outcomes for people experiencing out-of-hospital cardiac arrest are greatly improved when bystanders use a defib.

When we consider that, as Margaret Ferrier said in an intervention, someone’s chance of surviving cardiac arrest decreases by at least 10% to 15% with every passing minute, it is vital that everyone in the community not only knows where the nearest defib is located but—most crucially—has the knowledge and confidence to use it.

I understand how important it is to improve the teaching of these lifesaving skills having campaigned with the family and friends of Janene Maguire, a loving mother of three who unexpectedly passed away of a cardiac arrest in February 2000. Sadly, and almost amazingly, nearly two decades later one of Janene’s daughters also suffered from a sudden cardiac arrest. Fortunately, she was with her friend, who saved her life by performing CPR until a paramedic arrived.

The experience of that family in my constituency highlighted to me the importance of improving awareness and knowledge of both CPR and defibs. I am pleased to say that, as a result of our campaigning, the Welsh Government committed to including these lifesaving skills in the school curriculum in Wales, as they are in the curriculum in England. I hope that equipping young people with the knowledge to save lives will ensure that the survival rate for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests is greatly improved.

Despite the success of having added to the curriculum in Wales, the campaign to improve lifesaving skills and access to lifesaving equipment is far from over. Access to defibs and the knowledge of how to use them still needs to be greatly improved. As part of my commitment to improving these skills, I will continue to work with the Welsh charity Calon Hearts to organise a number of CPR events in my constituency in the new year. Participants will be able to learn the skills and gain the confidence to apply them, ensuring that people from all backgrounds have that knowledge, so that they too are able to save lives.

Although the Resuscitation Council has provided guidance for adult basic life support, which advises on how CPR and defibrillation should be administered during a sudden cardiac arrest, the vast majority of people still do not have that knowledge and are unable to use it when needed. Currently there are 5,423 public access defibs registered with the Welsh ambulance service, but the British Heart Foundation estimates that there are thousands more defibs that the trust has no record of. With that in mind, there is an obvious but important question to ask: what is the point of increasing the number of public access defibs if people do not know where they are or how to use them?

There seems to be a simple solution to the issue. Why not create a comprehensive, UK-wide database, on an app that can be downloaded to smartphones, including all defibs and their precise locations, and simple, easy-to-follow instructions on how to use them? It seems as though that would be a relatively simple database to establish and maintain. It should not be beyond the wit of man to put something in place along those lines. There are currently a number of different defib databases covering different areas of the UK, so it is certainly a feasible idea. Much of the data is already there, and just needs to be amalgamated in one comprehensive database. If all NHS systems in the UK worked together with organisations such as The Circuit, the national defibrillator network, it could easily be achieved, and would undoubtedly help to save many more lives.

The Welsh Government, to their credit, have recently committed £500,000 to improve community access to defibs. I encourage them to collaborate with the UK Government, and indeed the Scottish and Northern Irish devolved Administrations, to ensure that public access to defibs and the knowledge of how to use them is improved across the UK, and that it is mandatory for all defib providers to register every new device on the database.

When someone goes into cardiac arrest, every second counts. I want to ensure that as many tragic and unnecessary deaths can be avoided as possible, by equipping the general public with as much knowledge and as many skills as possible.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

I do apologise—my mistake. In that case, your able replacement is Stuart C. McDonald.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 1:58 pm, 18th November 2021

Thank you, Mr Hollobone. I am very honoured to be a replacement for Mr Thomson— I do not know how able, but I will do my best.

I am very grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to this vital debate. I too pay tribute to Jim Shannon, who has been championing this cause for a considerable time and therefore is an expert on it, as he showed with his opening speech. I confess that, in contrast, I am comparatively new to the issue. Like many others, I had my interest in it sparked by the lifesaving treatment of Christian Eriksen at this summer’s Euros, to which the hon. Member referred, and by subsequent conversations with constituents. I have been able to start some productive local conversations with the two local authorities that serve my constituents and with the British Heart Foundation. I am keen to learn more, and already have learned quite a lot more in the course of the debate.

In launching a small local campaign to help raise awareness of cardiac arrest and how to respond, and to try to increase access to lifesaving CPR training and defibrillators, we opted to call it “Every Second Counts”. That is not remotely original, but it reflects the fact that, as hon. Members have noted, when it comes to surviving a cardiac arrest, every moment really does matter.

The numbers are stark when it comes to survival rates for the 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests that people suffer each year in the UK—just one in 10, as we have heard. However, if we think about that from a different perspective, it means that we have the opportunity here to save hundreds—thousands—of lives if we get the response right. The basic components of a successful strategy seem uncontroversial, as we have already heard. We need to ensure that people can recognise what a cardiac arrest looks like so that they can take appropriate action. We need to ensure that they know to call 999 and can perform CPR. We also need them to use a defibrillator if one is available.

Access to defibrillators is a vital component of the chain of survival. How do we improve accessibility, because currently, as we have heard, only a small percentage of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests receive bystander defibrillation? It is important that there is a greater understanding of when and how to use defibrillators. We must get across the message that they are easy to use so that people do not hesitate for fear of doing it wrong. I look forward to taking part in the training that the hon. Member for Strangford is going to put on for us.

We need to get defibrillators across the country registered on The Circuit so that when we call 999 we can be directed to the nearest accessible defibrillator. We all know that early defibrillation can massively increase someone’s chances of surviving an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, but many defibrillators are never used because the emergency services simply do not know about them. The Circuit, an initiative by the British Heart Foundation, could prove an important step forward, and we all have a role in raising awareness in our constituencies.

A lot of good work is being done across the UK. We have heard about that already today. We all need to learn from each other, but we can also learn from good practice and what works by looking at examples from abroad. Denmark seems to be a model of good practice, which seems appropriate given what happened to Christian Eriksen. A training programme, the placement of 17,000 AEDs in the community and the implementation of a registry of where they are has seen impressive results. Survival rates have tripled largely because the rates of bystander CPR have shot up from 19% to 65%.

The Danes also use a smartphone Heartrunner app to alert responders trained in CPR and the use of defibrillators to any nearby cardiac arrest and the nearest publicly accessible defibrillator. Some 16,000 citizens joined that system in its first two months.

Sweden has seen survival rates double in the last 20 years, partly through mass CPR training—something we have heard about today—and SMS Lifesavers, which seems to be along the same lines as the Danish Heartrunner model.

It is not just about the number of accessible defibrillators, but where they are. It is brilliant to have two installed by voluntary organisations in the same street, but ideally we need to be able to target them where they are most needed, and we need to map that out. Some 80% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur at home, so how do we get as many into areas of concentrated housing as possible? Some public buildings will be ideal for that, with many schools situated in the heart of communities, for example, but other large housing estates might not have such buildings, so how do we deal with that? On the other hand—the hon. Member for Strangford touched on this earlier—our more remote areas have low concentrations of people, but possibly longer to wait for an ambulance, so defibrillators could be all the more vital.

Again looking to Denmark and Sweden as an example, I understand that 200,000 people have access to emergency medical deliveries of defibrillators by drone. Studies in Canada have suggested that that could be a lifesaving option for rural areas. But perhaps we should learn to run before we try to fly. NHS Grampian has had some success in reducing response times to remote areas with teams of trained volunteer responders equipped with AEDs and vehicle locator systems.

On another related issue, I was concerned to read that those in the most deprived areas of the country are almost 20% less likely to receive bystander CPR, so we need to try to understand why that is and how we can address that problem. We need to address these issues to ensure the best response, and we would be wise to look at the type of work that has been undertaken by the resuscitation research group at the University of Edinburgh. I look forward to working with colleagues across the House to make sure that every second counts, and that we do everything we can to save lives.

I thank the hon. Members who supported this debate and express my support for their call to action.

Photo of Aaron Bell Aaron Bell Conservative, Newcastle-under-Lyme 2:04 pm, 18th November 2021

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone, and a pleasure to follow Stuart C. McDonald. I congratulate Jim Shannon on securing this important debate and on his private Member’s Bill. It may be the case that we do not have time for it on the day it is scheduled for, but I hope the Government will look carefully at the Bill.

The debate is well timed for me, because I am due to visit a school in my constituency tomorrow that installed a defibrillator only last Friday. However, I am afraid the background to that installation is tragic. Ravensmead Primary School in Bignall End in my Newcastle-under-Lyme constituency has had a very sad loss in recent weeks. A teaching assistant suffered a heart attack at school and later passed away. Sam Benson was a much-loved member of the Ravensmead community, a mum of three children, and a teaching assistant who had been involved with the school for 20 years, initially as a volunteer to help children with reading and later as a member of staff. In the words of her headteacher, Melanie Goodall,

“Sam was a fabulous teaching assistant. She was fun and loved life. She was always bright and colourful. She used to work in the school office and was the first face that many parents saw here. She would have Michael Buble on a loop in the office.”

The circumstances of Sam’s death are not only tragic, but illustrate the problems with access to defibrillators. When she collapsed one morning in September, several colleagues raced a hundred yards up the road to a local pub, which thankfully did have a defibrillator, while several other colleagues commenced CPR immediately. However, it took them several minutes to get hold of the equipment as they needed to phone for the access code. Fellow teaching assistant, Heather Evans, was one of the members of staff trying to access the defibrillator at The Swan pub after Sam’s collapse. She told our local paper, the Stoke Sentinel, that,

“Running up the road, it was like running up Everest”.

By the time they got back to the school, the paramedics were already there. Sam was taken to hospital, and sadly died five days later.

I am enormously pleased to hear how quickly the paramedics were able to attend the scene, which is commendable given the pressure that the ambulance service is experiencing. However, as has been raised already, it is widely known that every minute counts when responding to cardiac arrests. The chance of successful defibrillation decreases by 23% for each minute that passes, according to a 2003 study. Therefore, if a defibrillator had been more readily available and used a couple of minutes sooner, who knows what difference it might have made? We will never know, but Sam’s chance of survival may have been higher. She was lucky that CPR was started almost immediately, which would have given her a much better chance than those who collapse alone.

In Sam’s honour, her husband Neville Benson, friends and members of the school community have been raising money for a defibrillator at the school and have raised over £4,000 in Sam’s memory. Tesco Express in Audley has actually donated a device, which has been installed, so that money will be used to help other schools in the area have access to the same device. Neville has also been in touch with me to talk about his desire that these devices be made mandatory in all schools—indeed, I spoke to him this morning. I know that new and refurbished state schools are required to have defibrillators. I saw the answer from my hon. Friend Vicky Ford to a written question on 10 September that the Government are looking at what more they can do, and she referred to what the previous Secretary of State for Education has done on the issue.

When Neville spoke to me this morning, he also made the sensible point that while it should not be a cost-benefit analysis, there is a financial benefit as well as the health benefit because quicker defibrillation reduces the chances of long-term disability, which could save society an awful lot of money for a relatively low cost in the short term. I would like to briefly mention the amazing work of the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young, which aims to provide heart screening for a minimum of 200 young people per year. I was introduced to the charity by David Hughes, my constituent in the same parish, who raises money for the charity in honour of his son, Daniel Hughes, who died suddenly at the age of 28 in 2015. In memory of Daniel, Dave has been working to raise awareness and reduce the frequency of young sudden cardiac death. He said:

“We will never know if heart screening would have saved our precious son’s life but we never want another family to go through what we went through. There are no words to describe the emptiness and heartache we feel everyday;
all we can do is work hard to ensure that Dan’s legacy lives on for years to come and that he continues to make a difference to people’s lives now as he did when he was with us.”

Dave has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds since Dan’s death. I have been out to support him on some of those things. If the Minister could take this message back to the Department, I know Dave would be very grateful.

Defibrillators can mean the difference between life and death, as we know only too well. Of the 30,000 out-of- hospital cardiac arrests across the United Kingdom each year, the overall survival rate is a shocking one in 10. It is estimated that publicly accessible defibrillators are used in fewer than 5% of those incidents. That is a very sad statistic, but a sadder one still is that, according to research conducted by the Resuscitation Council, less than half of bystanders in the UK would intervene when they witness someone collapse. That statistic is substantially lower than figures for other regions and countries that have comparable demographics. The willingness rate is 73% in Norway, 66% in Seattle and 60% in north Holland, and their survival rates are over 20%, so that is something we also need to tackle. Norway has been teaching CPR in schools for many years, and that bystander CPR has got its survival rates as high as 25%, compared with less than 10% in the UK. I am very pleased to see that, from September 2020, we did add CPR to the national curriculum in secondary schools.

Finally—this is another point that people have raised—most of us will remember the Euro 2020 footage this year, when Danish footballer Christian Eriksen collapsed. Of course, his chances of survival were greatly increased from the start because of the urgent medical assistance that arrived immediately. CPR and a defibrillator were applied during those crucial first few minutes. Those scenes were deeply distressing to witness for everyone watching in the stadium or from home, but thankfully he had a good outcome. He is now doing so well that he is working towards returning to playing football. We should be giving that same best chance of survival to everyone.

Photo of Paul Howell Paul Howell Conservative, Sedgefield 2:10 pm, 18th November 2021

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. It has been an absolute pleasure to support Jim Shannon in his endeavours. I thank him for his kind comments, and thank all other colleagues who are supporting the debate.

The importance of access to AEDs in a life-threatening medical emergency cannot be disputed. In addition to the high-profile and extremely upsetting events at Euro 2020 when Christian Erikson suffered his cardiac arrest, there was a similar event in Newcastle’s football ground on TV the other week, when an 80-year-old gentleman collapsed. Fortunately, there was an AED to help that situation too.

Is the Minister aware that in the UK, nearly 300 school children die of sudden cardiac arrest every year? The emotional statements of colleagues on the specifics mentioned only further endorse the need for something to happen on these proposals. An obvious start for this is our public buildings, such as schools, libraries, and local government buildings, to have access to AEDs.

Unfortunately, without on-site and urgent access to defibrillation, the vast majority of cardiac arrests will be fatal. At present, there are just not enough AEDs accessible to people. As has already been said, for each minute that passes following a cardiac arrest without CPR, the survival rate drops by 20%.

Given that the average response time for emergency services to a cardiac arrest is just under seven minutes, we cannot rely purely on our emergency services—however good they are—to fill the gap. If we want to save as many lives as possible, we need as many defibrillators in the community as possible. That is particularly true in rural areas, like most of my Sedgefield constituency, where call-out times are naturally longer, simply because of the distances the emergency services will have to travel. Prompt, community access to defibrillators can dramatically help improve the chances of survival. Indeed, it would help to level up between urban and rural communities.

The AED Bill would make an important legislative change, helping to build a better, safer environment for people in the community and increasing the cardiac arrest survival rate. As a nation, we have the opportunity to be world leaders in ensuring that we all have access to defibrillation. We should we pass this legislation into law and be the first country to mandate that new public buildings provide access to a defibrillator.

I am aware that the Department for Education offers reduced-cost defibrillators through NHS Supply Chain’s Defibs4Schools programme, which in itself shows that it values the provision. Could the Minister encourage it to go further, particularly with new school builds, and also push other Departments to follow suit? It is clear that it would be challenging to ensure that all current public buildings have AEDs, but it is something the Minister should look at trying to mandate. I strongly encourage her to push her Department—and indeed other ministerial colleagues—to look for cross-departmental engagement to introduce that compulsion for new public buildings, whether they are for local government, health, education, or other purposes.

As has been mentioned, mandated AEDs on public buildings will work best if they are comprehensively mapped so members of the public could be directed to their nearest location. On that, I do like the earlier proposal for an app-driven solution. The proposed Bill would take an important step towards ensuring that AEDs can be readily located wherever they are needed. In addition to ensuring that AEDs are mapped, we need to ensure that we have a system in which people are clear about whose responsibility it is to maintain them, particularly if they are in the public domain.

We all know—we have heard many representations today—that excellent work has done up and down the country by volunteers who understand the importance of AED access to their communities. As already mentioned, in Newton Aycliffe, for example, David Sutton-Lloyd has worked tirelessly to ensure that 32 AEDs are now available to residents. However, I believe that we, as the legislature and elected representatives, have a duty to ensure that all new buildings are fitted with AEDs, and that the work of volunteers is to complement that, rather than provide the initial provision.

Again, this was mentioned earlier, but I have been educated on the use of defibrillators. Mr Sutton-Lloyd is incredibly active in running training courses. I am not sure “training” is the right word. It is not training, it is education. Unless we know about these pieces of kit, we could get concerned that the electricity could cause problems. As has been mentioned, it cannot do that; the machines are good. The machine makes the decision and it is not possible to use a defibrillator on somebody if it is not the right thing to do. I encourage the Minister to promote campaigns to educate the public around this, so that when defibrillators are necessary people are confident and not worried about using them.

To summarise, the provision of AEDs, in and around our communities, is a real aid to saving lives at minimal cost. The opportunity to make them compulsory in public buildings, at least initially in new-build public buildings, is surely a no-brainer. How could the Minister consider otherwise?

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

We now come to the Front-Bench speeches. Apologies to the Scottish National party spokesman for being so keen to get him in earlier, but his moment has now come.

Photo of Richard Thomson Richard Thomson Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Treasury - Financial Secretary), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland) 2:15 pm, 18th November 2021

It is still a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I hope I am not being flippant or not paying due respect to the seriousness of the subject when I say that I almost needed an AED when I heard my name being called early.

I congratulate Jim Shannon not only on securing the debate, but on his long and distinguished involvement in many measures in this House to advance the cause of expanding the provision of public defibrillators. He is involved with a private Member’s Bill that had run into the procedural buffers, for which he has picked up the baton. I know he has had positive dialogue with the Government, and I very much hope to see that Bill hit the statute book, by whatever means. It could bring real and tangible benefits to so many individuals and families, all across these islands.

Globally, cardiac arrests claim more lives than colorectal cancer, influenza, pneumonia, car accidents, HIV, firearms deaths and house fires combined. In the UK, that translates to around 30,000 people each year losing their lives through experiencing cardiac arrest. Sadly, fewer than one in 10 of those who experience cardiac arrest survive. It is something that can happen to anyone, in any place, at any age, at any time, with little, if any, warning.

All the hon. Members who have spoken, whether through a substantive contribution or a knowledgeable intervention, have made this an excellent debate. We have heard many examples of how early, rapid intervention has either happily saved lives or tragically could have saved a life.

A range of actors help to achieve the best outcomes here that they possibly can. We have heard about the examples of first responders, and we are familiar with the role that our paramedics play. I am pleased to have heard so many Members talk about CPR knowledge. I encourage everyone watching this debate, either live or afterwards, or reading about it in Hansard or in the newspapers, to make time to learn how to perform CPR, if they have not already done so. It could really save a life.

We have heard about, and some of us saw, the tragic events that afflicted Christian Eriksen during the European championships. I was watching with my children, and it was awful having to explain what was very likely happening and not being able to give them, at that time, the happy ending that they wanted. I remember the relief at being able to tell them that he was alive and in hospital. The quick action of his team mates and the medical professionals at the stadium saved him.

I would like to give an example of a case a little bit closer to home, at my former place of study, the University of Stirling. In February 2016, 20-year-old student Finlay Richardson, a third year student, collapsed during lacrosse practice on the university’s training fields. Sports centre staff reacted quickly, realised what was happening and ran and got the sport centre’s defibrillator. They were able to apply it to him. He was taken to the Forth Valley Royal Hospital where I am pleased to say he made a full recovery. In fact, he went on to secure a first class honours degree from the university in environmental science. In both cases, what made the difference, on top of the fast response, was the rapid use and application of automated defibrillators.

Those are two good outcomes, but sadly most outcomes are not positive. The single most effective measure that we could take to improve the survival rate is to increase the coverage of automated defibrillators around the country combined with increasing people’s knowledge about how to perform CPR. In Scotland, over the last five years, the Save a Life Scotland partnership has equipped more than 640,000 people, about 11% of the Scottish population, with CPR skills. At the launch of Scotland’s inaugural out of hospital cardiac arrest strategy in 2015, only about one in 20 people in Scotland who experienced an out of hospital cardiac arrest survived. By 2020, that had risen to one in 10.

The updated strategy for 2021 to 2026 aims to double the number of people equipped with lifesaving CPR skills and make sure that more than 1 million people have them, and to give all school-aged children the opportunity to be equipped with CPR skills. Those measures contribute to the aim of increasing bystander CPR rates to 85% so that a defibrillator can be applied before the ambulance arrives in 20% of cardiac arrests, and it is hoped that they will increase survival rates from out of hospital cardiac arrests from 10% to 15%.

Importantly, some 80% of cardiac arrests occur in the home, but sadly public defibrillators are used in only about 8% of cases. That might be, as hon. Members have said, due to a lack of confidence in how to use them, a lack of understanding, or a lack of knowledge of the location on the part of the individuals or the emergency services. The British Heart Foundation’s The Circuit campaign will be vital in drawing together the information about that lifesaving equipment. We need to increase that rate by ensuring that the locations of automated defibrillators are known and by increasing the public’s knowledge of how to use them.

I am pleased to say that there was a big community effort in the village where I stay in 2019—it is a small community but close knit. The school held fundraising events to buy a defibrillator for the village; we actually now have two. In April 2019—I think, if Facebook has not let me down—we held a training event in the village hall to learn how to use it. We learned about the appropriate pace of heart massage and were told to perform it while imagining that the Bee Gees were singing “Stayin’ Alive” in our head to get the rhythm right—that seems a bit incongruous, but I will not argue with medical experts.

We also learned how to give artificial respiration. The training was a great success in bringing the community together and in ensuring that, if the worst happened in our community, whether to someone who stays, is visiting or is passing through, there is a cohort of people who should be able to make a positive intervention and increase the chance of survival of anyone unfortunate enough to be in that situation.

I welcome the consensus in the Chamber and the Bill of the hon. Member for Strangford. The private sector has been incredibly accommodating and willing to host defibrillators and ensure that they are maintained, but some of our buildings with the highest footfall, particularly in rural areas, are the public ones. It is important to increase that coverage and do all that we reasonably can, through persuasion or by mandating, to ensure that those lifesaving pieces of tech are in place in our public spaces. I am keen to leave as much time as I can for the hon. Gentleman to sum up, so I will conclude by saying that this has been an excellent debate and I look forward to seeing how the House can come together to advance our shared objectives in future.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care) 2:24 pm, 18th November 2021

It is a pleasure to serve with you in the Chair, Mr Hollobone. I, too, congratulate Jim Shannon on securing the debate, and the Backbench Business Committee on granting it. He made a typically thoughtful case, as he did earlier in the week when we spoke about smoking cessation in this Chamber. I plan to borrow liberally from him today, as I did then, because I know he does not mind.

The hon. Member spoke about the wide cross-section of support for action in this area. Clearly, we are a very visible demonstration of that politically, in terms of the number of people who have been able to attend on a Thursday afternoon and the parties that we represent, because the debate is so important. He also detailed a long list of organisations in civil society that have come together for action. I know that they will be watching. I hope that they get a sense from the debate of how seriously Parliament takes the issue, and how clear the commitment is for action.

The hon. Member and other colleagues raised the case of Christian Eriksen, which was a very visible demonstration of cardiac arrest, and how it can affect individuals with very little notice. It was a dreadful thing. Like Richard Thomson, I watched it with incredible sadness and fear. It was an awful thing to happen to anybody, but it happened in the best place possible—a place that had lots of kit and medical expertise. I think back to all the football that we played this Saturday and Sunday up and down the country in rural communities that do not have the same infrastructure as a major football stadium. We are here today with that risk in mind.

Other colleagues made excellent contributions. Mrs Latham made a point on schools. We talk a lot about personal and social education in this place. CPR, water safety and railway safety should be core parts of the curriculum, because some of our young people will need those skills, and they could save a life. That would be a valuable part of their education. Rob Roberts made a point on having great kit out there but not knowing where it is. I will expand on that shortly. Stuart C. McDonald made points about inequalities—something that is close to my heart. I am conscious that as challenging as some of the outcomes that we have heard about are, they are worse in poorer communities such as mine. That calls us to act.

Aaron Bell raised the terrible case of Sam Benson, which I was not aware of. It was exceptionally saddening to hear about. I associate myself with all the remarks that he made. Sam’s colleagues clearly made incredible efforts. Sadly, they were in vain, but her colleagues will at least take comfort that they behaved wonderfully in that situation. Perhaps we need to do more to ensure that others in similar situations will have access to the right kit as soon as possible. As he said, time can have a really significant impact on outcomes.

I know that the debate is a joint enterprise between Paul Howell, who made a point about St James’s Park. I married into a family of Newcastle season ticket holders, and that case was very visible. Again, it was perhaps the right place for such a thing to happen because of those who were around, although we would never wish for it to happen to anybody. The point that the hon. Member for Sedgefield made about the 300 school children was sobering. Again, that shows why public buildings such as schools would be very good for this sort of thing.

Heart and circulatory diseases account for one death every three minutes in the UK. We know that many cardiac arrests take place in hospital settings, but more than 30,000 take place outside of them and the survival rate for those is less than one in 10. In parts of the country, including the east midlands, the rate is lower. It has a range of causes, but whatever happens there is disruption to electrical activity in the heart, meaning that it is not pumping blood to the brain, lungs and other organs. That can lead to unconsciousness and, if left untreated, death, but advances in medical technology have given us the crucial tool of automated external defibrillators.

AEDs offer a lifeline to those suffering cardiac arrest because they provide an electric shock to the heart to restore normal rhythm. As colleagues said—I do not think that we can say this enough, because we need it to be understood more widely—they are very safe to use. They are portable and easy, they have clear instructions, and they cannot allow the user to give an accidental shock and hurt somebody, which I thought the hon. Member for Sedgefield made very clear. We cannot say that enough—I hope the people watching will get that picture. The statistics bear out how effective they are. If a defibrillator is attached to a patient by a non-medical first responder, the average survival rate is 40%. Other research puts the figure even higher. Every day, people doing extraordinary actions can be very effective indeed.

At the moment, only one in 10 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests involves a public access defibrillator. The British Heart Foundation say that our nation’s low cardiac arrest survival rate is likely to be partly attributable to that lack of access. For this lifesaving technology to work, people must be able to access it. There are two elements to that. First, AEDs have to be there. The Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Strangford is a really good way to do that. Secondly and no less crucially, we need to know where the AEDs are, whether that is us as bystanders or the emergency services. It is estimated that there are 100,000 AEDs in the UK, but only 30,000 are known to ambulance services. That is a big gap in our response. As hon. Members have said, when a person suffers cardiac arrest, it is a race against the clock. A person’s chance of survival decreases around 10% with every minute that passes.

Progress has been made, which we should say with some pride and with optimism for the future. I pay tribute to the British Heart Foundation, SADS UK, the Oliver King Foundation and others who campaign and have campaigned tirelessly over the years to improve the provision of AEDs and to provide training on how to use them. I also pay tribute to all those businesses and engaged citizens across the country who have done sponsored runs or bake sales, or put some of their business’s own money into making AEDs available. It very much shows the best of Britain and a community response—a truly selfless act. With them having done all that, we can meet that ambition in this place to push things a little bit further.

We know it can work. Colleagues have used various different international examples—I will use one of my own. Across the North sea, in the Netherlands, they created a national network of available AEDs and a system to alert trained citizens to cardiac arrests. When it comes to out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, the Netherlands has the highest survival rate in Europe, which points us in the right direction. The hon. Member for Strangford has himself pointed us in the right direction with his Bill.

We know about the vagaries of trying to get business proceeded with on Fridays—we may well see that again tomorrow. Whether or not the Bill can progress, we have the Health and Care Bill in the House at the moment, with its Commons remaining stages on Monday and Tuesday next week, I believe, and with Lords stages to come too. If the Government were minded to pick up the sentiment and theme of what the hon. Gentleman has set out, although I cannot speak for him I suggest he would be quite enthusiastic about that, and the Opposition would certainly be very supportive of it. I believe there would be widespread support across the House. There is clearly cross-party support for the common goal of an active network of AEDs, with citizens knowledgeable about their location and able to use them. We will support the Government in any measure they bring forward to make that a reality.

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 2:33 pm, 18th November 2021

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I thank Jim Shannon for securing this debate, and also for his passion and dedication in championing this cause. He will know of my interest in the subject before I became a Minister. If anyone can get these changes through, it will be him. I thank him for that. I also thank my hon. Friend Paul Howell, who is the No. 2 in these proceedings.

This is such an important issue. Twelve young people a week in this country die from sudden cardiac arrest. As we have heard, there are 30,000 cardiac arrests a year. This is not an insignificant issue. Behind every single one of those people is a family and a community. As we heard from my hon. Friend Aaron Bell when he spoke of the tragic news of Sam Benson, the impact will last forever.

I reassure hon. Members that the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease and access to defibrillators is a priority for the Government. There has been some significant progress in the last two years. We know that about 90% of sudden cardiac arrests are fatal, but if a defibrillator is used in the first three to five minutes, survival can be around 50% to 70%. Again, it makes a significant difference if someone has a sudden cardiac arrest out of hospital.

The Government are supporting a number of measures and working with key stakeholders. I want to highlight some of the work being done to ensure the best possible access to defibrillators and that people feel confident to use them. Hon. Members may be aware that “The NHS Long Term Plan”, published in January 2019, includes a section on cardiovascular disease and defibrillators. The NHS has committed to developing a national network of first responders and access to automated external defibrillators, which will save roughly 4,000 lives a year by 2028. It is high on our agenda, but it is important that we deliver on it now. I think that is the key message from the hon. Member for Strangford, because the chance of survival from a cardiac arrest occurring out of hospital doubles if someone received CPR or defibrillation, so it makes a difference.

I will highlight some of the work that has been done, notably with the British Heart Foundation, which a number of Members have mentioned today. We have worked with the British Heart Foundation to put in place The Circuit, a national network providing evidence of where defibs are in all our communities. If someone calls 999 or contacts the emergency services, ambulance services can identify for them where their nearest defibrillator is.

The Circuit is now live and covers 10 ambulance services, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is working with the two remaining ambulance services, London and South East Coast ambulance services, to get them on to the system. We expect that to happen in the first half of next year. That means all our ambulance services will be able to direct people to the nearest defibrillator ahead of the ambulance attending to the person in need. Currently, 33,237 defibrillators are registered with the eight live ambulance services in England, so we now have a network that we can direct people to.

Although defibrillators do not yet need to be legally registered with the British Heart Foundation, we are working with manufacturers, stakeholders and partners to promote the registration of all defibrillators. My ask of colleagues here this afternoon and anyone who is watching is please to register a defibrillator with the British Heart Foundation. Please do check it is on the register, because it is crucial that the ambulance service can give directions to the nearest defibrillator if someone has a cardiac arrest. We can also ensure that existing defibrillators are managed and looked after and that the register is a live register. We all know that things happen in our communities—defibrillators can be vandalised, or a building can be taken out of use and the defibrillator goes with it. It is important that this is a live piece of work.

The NHS is also working with St John Ambulance. Again, a number of Members have mentioned its excellent work to increase the importance of CPR. It is true that although people do not need training in order to use a defibrillator—my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield put it well—it is about educating them so that they are confident in using them. I want to reinforce the message that no harm can be done with a defibrillator; simply stick the stickers to someone’s chest, turn the machine on, and it will tell us exactly what to do. In some cases, it will not be appropriate, in which case it will say exactly what will happen. It is a valuable piece of kit; almost idiot-proof, in that you cannot get it wrong. We want to give the public the absolute confidence that if they come across a defibrillator, they should feel free to use it, but that overall CPR training is also vital.

Photo of Paul Howell Paul Howell Conservative, Sedgefield

Just to clarify the point about a defibrillator telling someone if it will not work, it actually will not work as a machine if it is used in the wrong way.

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That gives people added reassurance that they can do no harm, because the machine is totally in control.

We are also using technology, and there are some exciting apps—Rob Roberts talked about having apps. Some mobile technology works with the NHS to help people play a role in becoming first responders. If people know how to do CPRRichard Thomson seems to be trained up in that—I encourage them to use the GoodSAM app, which allows members of the public who can do CPR and feel confident about using a defibrillator to receive alerts. If someone collapses in the local area, they will get an alert on their phone, which will tell them where the nearest defibrillator and the person who needs help are. It integrates with ambulance dispatch systems and has a crowd-sourced map of defibrillators, including those in vehicles. The platform now has more than 19,000 volunteers and partnerships with 80 organisations, including the NHS and ambulance trusts.

We are also reassured that the British Heart Foundation is developing an app. It will link to The Circuit and show people where their nearest defibrillator is. Technology is being used to help communities to help themselves.

Photo of Rob Roberts Rob Roberts Independent, Delyn

On a different but related subject, in this place and in the main Chamber, the Pensions Minister, our hon. Friend Guy Opperman, has talked about how he is working with the BBC and other broadcasters to do some kind of nationwide campaign to raise awareness of pension credit. Is that something the Department of Health and Social Care could work on for this subject?

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point. Some of the developments have been over the past two years and, during covid, they have not necessarily had the publicity they deserve. We all have a role in promoting initiatives. There is work to be done so that people are aware of the apps and initiatives.

In our communities, defibrillators are available at airports, shopping centres, train stations and community centres. School-age children are at low risk, but it can still happen, as I said earlier. As a result, and thanks to the work of the Oliver King Foundation, huge pressure was placed on the Department for Education, so defibs are now available for schools and other education providers across the UK to purchase through the NHS supply chain. They can get those important pieces of equipment at reduced cost. As of January this year, more than 5,000 defibs had been purchased through the defibrillators for schools programme, so we are getting defibs out into our schools.

Since May 2019, the Government have required all new and refurbished schools in Department for Education school building programmes to have at least one defib in their buildings. We are pushing that out for new and refurbished schools, but that does not cover all schools in the network.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Conservative, Beverley and Holderness

To get defibrillators into the community, I established the Community Access Defibrillators for East Yorkshire campaign. I formed a committee and worked with the highly estimable Warren Bostock of the Yorkshire ambulance service, challenging him with the question: “What would a complete network look like?” His initial response was, “How long is a piece of string?”, but he came up with rules and a map showing all the communities that did and did not have defibrillators—60-plus did not—and over the past two or three years we have been working on that. We now have that figure down to fewer than 20 and hope that in the next 12 months we will have it down to zero. Colleagues might be interested to hear the history of that, to get a template that can be applied elsewhere. If we have clarity about where we ought to have defibrillators, we can ensure that we have them there. In parallel, if we work on awareness and confidence, as discussed, we could save even more than the 4,000 lives that the Minister so rightly highlighted earlier.

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

I thank my hon. Friend for his hard work in his community. There are some excellent examples of where defibrillators have been rolled out. Many communities now have them, but if we have them mandated in public buildings, we can address the gaps outside them with excellent work such as my hon. Friend’s. That is the point that the hon. Member for Strangford is making with his forthcoming private Member’s Bill.

We are also providing training, and CPR training is so important. From September of last year, all state-funded schools have been required to teach first aid as part of the new subject of health education, which was introduced alongside relationship education. Primary school children are taught basic first aid now, and pupils in secondary schools are taught further aid, such as administering CPR and the purpose of defibrillators, so hopefully the next generation will be far more confident than perhaps we are in performing CPR and using defibrillators.

Separately, Sport England has announced that it is working with the Football Foundation in support of the Premier League initiative to put £3 million into providing defibs for grassroots football clubs. A number of people mentioned Christian Eriksen. We also had the case of Fabrice Muamba in 2012. Very often in sports facilities, these are crucial pieces of kit that can save lives. We heard about the supporter at Newcastle who also benefited.

This is an incredibly important issue. I want to reassure the hon. Member for Strangford and all hon. Members here today that we absolutely take it seriously. It is an absolute priority to improve the lives and healthcare outcomes of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside a hospital. I hope that the work in the last two years, although perhaps it is not as well known, as the hon. Member for Delyn points out, shows that we are making key progress in some of the really important areas. But there are gaps in provision. We have heard that what matters is not just where defibs go but that they are outside, with 24-hour access. There are tricky issues such as whether to have a code on a defib. All these things need to be nailed down. I am happy to work with colleagues. This work does not involve just the Department of Health and Social Care; some of it needs the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the Department for Education, or the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. It is a cross-Government approach, and I am happy to work with Members to bridge any gaps that still exist.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 2:47 pm, 18th November 2021

First, I thank all hon. Members who have spoken for their contributions. A consistent theme is coming through about having all the data in place; and The Circuit network is going a long way towards that.

I am very keen to be aware of the Welsh perspective and what is happening in Wales. There might be lessons there for us all to learn about how to do what is needed. I thank Rob Roberts for giving us that perspective.

Stuart C. McDonald referred to access to AEDs and training. Again, that is a central theme that consistently comes up, with each and every person. He gave the example of Denmark. He also referred to the fact that in some cases AEDs can be delivered to rural areas by drone. I am not quite sure about the science of how that is done, but the point is that it is happening somewhere, and if it is happening somewhere and is successful, it might be the way to address this issue in some rural areas.

I was so sorry to hear about the lady whose case was raised by Aaron Bell. The necessary timescale very clearly was not there. As a result, there will now be an AED in place. It was not there when the lady needed it, and all of us, including the Minister, have said that we wish to convey our sincere sympathies to the family.

Photo of Aaron Bell Aaron Bell Conservative, Newcastle-under-Lyme

May I thank the hon. Member and all other hon. Members who have expressed their sympathy? When I see Mr Benson, I will ensure that they are passed on to him, and when I speak to the headteacher tomorrow, I will ensure that they are passed on to the school as well.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

There is a united consensus of sympathy in relation to that case.

I thank Paul Howell for his support for this cause. He gave us a salient reminder of the 300 children who die each year from cardiac arrest. Sometimes, when we hear the figure of 30,000 for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, we do not focus on all the people that includes.

I think we are all really interested in what Graham Stuart has done in his constituency. We would be very keen to find out more about how that has happened, because there is obviously something that we could learn from there.

I am very impressed by the fact that Richard Thomson is so learned in this sector. I know him as a friend, so I am not surprised at his knowledge on this subject matter. I know that he is also a very athletic person. He gave the example of the sixth-form student who is alive today and pursuing a career because of an AED that was in the right place, at the right time. The hon. Gentleman and I feature in many debates together; indeed, I cannot think of any debate on a health issue that we have missed. I thank him. I am certainly keen to look at that, and will discuss how to bring it forward in a positive way with the Minister and the hon. Member for Sedgefield, if that is possible.

I want to sincerely thank the Minister. She referred to the fact that some 12 young people die from cardiac arrest every week. It is shocking that we can lose so much young life—people who could have done so much and had their futures ahead of them. The hon. Lady will know of young Oliver King. He comes to my mind on many occasions. I never knew the young boy, but I knew his daddy—that is very real.

The Minister referred to discussions with stakeholders, the NHS and first responders, who do excellent work in my constituency. She also referred to teaching and training in schools. That is all part of the joint approach that we need, alongside St John Ambulance and CPR training. The Minister also referred to Bills that will require an AED to be in place in all those buildings and that AEDs will be mandated in any new build. I am very grateful for that positive response from the Minister.

However, my private Member’s Bill aims to do one thing, if I can achieve it: it would mandate that all buildings, not just new buildings, must have AEDs. I know that the Minister agrees with that. We need a consensus across all Departments that have responsibility in this area. AEDs are available in lots of buildings already—in schools, Government buildings, many leisure centres, football clubs and so on. However, the Bill aims to achieve one thing: that AEDs are mandated in all buildings, and that those who are responsible for them will know that. The signage, training and all of the other things to which the Minister and others have referred are great points and are very important, but they illustrate that the Bill is so important. I hope that on Second Reading, on 10 December, the Government will see that the Bill is a win-win; there is no cost, but everyone gains. Those nine out of 10 victims of sudden cardiac arrest who are lost every year can be saved. The Bill is a lifesaver. I encourage the Government and all those involved to support it.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House
has considered public access to Automatic External Defibrillators.

Sitting suspended.