A collaboration between the local authority, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, and the charity Lucky2bhere has made the Western Isles one of the best protected communities in the UK in terms of life-saving training and equipment per head.
In a proactive local authority-led approach Comhairle nan Eilean Siar , which serves the whole of the Western Isles, has teamed up with Lucky2bhere and automated external defibrillator (AED) manufacturers Cardiac Science to achieve the feat.
Together they have provided more concentrated access to an AED and comprehensive Emergency Life Support Training (ELS) than anywhere else in the UK.
The Western Isles covers an area from the Butt of Lewis to Barra, serving around 26,000 people. The 100th defib was presented last week to the management of the Cabarfeidh Hotel in Stornoway.
ELS training, including how to operate an AED, is now provided routinely by Lucky2BHere Eilean Siar volunteers in all 24 secondary and primary schools across the Western Isles as part of the curriculum.
Bernard Chisholm, Director of Education for the Western Isles, helped create the framework for change by making AED provision possible and championing the ELS training.
AEDs are now available 24/7 at every school in the Western Isles, both for school and wider community use, all signposted from local roads.
The proactive approach to life-saving training is widely adopted across Europe, especially in Scandinavian countries, where survival rates after sudden cardiac arrest are as good as one in two. In the UK it’s only 1 in 20.
Around 60,000 people in the UK have an out of hospital cardiac arrest each year according to figures from the Resuscitation Council (UK). If CPR is started early and there is an AED available, it can double the person’s chances of survival.
The autonomy to make this a priority in schools at local authority level has been key according to Lucky2bhere founder – and SCA survivor – Ross Cowie.
He said: “We work all over Scotland educating people on how to save lives, but the progress we have made in the Western Isles and in just 18 months, has been phenomenal.
“The 100th AED installation is evidence of a commitment to making learning life-saving skills a strategic local authority priority and it will keep this community safer in the future.”
Cllr Angus Morrison has been instrumental in the campaign both as a Councillor and a Volunteer Trainer and Co-ordinator at Lucky2bhere.
He suffered a heart attack himself in 2015 and is well aware of the importance of timely life-saving intervention.
It was his vision to see AEDs in every community in the Western Isles and the scheme has seen that increase from seven to 100 in less than 18 months.
He said: “After my heart attack I wanted to raise awareness of the need to have both easy access to AEDs and the necessary life saving skills to deal with a sudden cardiac arrest.”
Cardiac Science Managing Director Shaun Ingram said: “This is the highest concentration of AEDs we have ever supplied into one small community making it by far one of the best served.
“Coupled with the great work of Lucky2bhere in training volunteers and the drive of the local authority and local community fundraising initiatives this is a model to watch.”
Lucky2bhere trainers are volunteers all trained according to current Resuscitation Council (UK) guidelines.
The free of charge ELS training lasts 2.5 hours and gives people the knowledge and confidence to provide bystander CPR and defibrillation in an emergency.
Key aspects of this are recognising the difference between heart attack and cardiac arrest, watching and listening to a real life demonstration, performing CPR and using an AED, also dealing with a choking child or adult.
A celebration dinner was held at the end of November with trainers and supporters to mark an extraordinary 18 months of progress in life-saving education and the installation of the 100th AED in the Western Isles.