Bystanders who witness someone going into cardiac arrest could soon become lifesavers thanks to a new project which aims to map all of Britain’s public defibrillators.
Information about the availability of the devices - which give a high energy electric shock to the heart - is patchy and not all are known to ambulance services.
When a member of the public calls 999 after finding someone whose heart has stopped, they might not be directed to where they can find a publicly available defibrillator due to a lack of information on the whereabouts of the devices.
To combat the challenge, the NHS, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and Microsoft have vowed to map all of the UK’s public defibrillators.
The BHF has estimated that thousands more lives could be saved from cardiac arrests if the locations of all defibrillators were known to emergency call handlers.
Previous research has found that just 3 per cent of patients who suffer cardiac arrests that happen outside of hospital are treated with public access defibrillators, which the charity says significantly reduces the survival chances of tens of thousands of people every year.
One parent has welcomed the initiative to improve awareness about the whereabouts of defibrillators after saving the life of his son with one of the devices.
Stuart Askew used a public access defibrillator on his son Ethan last April after the 15-year-old collapsed on the school field.
Mr Askew, who works as a premises manager at Steiner Academy in Hereford - the same school attended by his son - had helped to set up a defibrillator just two days previously.
After running across the field to find the school receptionist performing CPR on his son, Mr Askew called on Ethan’s classmates to retrieve the defibrillator - which the school had after making a successful application to the BHF for a community defibrillator for the village.
He then used the device on his son.
The youngster has now made a complete recovery, following surgery to treat a narrowed artery, which was caused by a genetic condition.
The new project, a collaboration between the BHF, NHS England, NHS Scotland and Microsoft solutions provider New Signature, will see a comprehensive map of defibrillators across the UK created over the next 12 months.