Every station on the Great Northern, Southern and Thameslink railway networks is to be fitted with automated external defibrillators (AEDs).
The initiative was announced on 16 October, the eve of “Restart a Heart Day”.
All 238 stations on the companies’ networks will receive a publicly accessible AED in the largest roll-out of defibrillators across the UK’s railways. They are part of a £15m stations improvement programme involving over 1,000 projects, many suggested by local passenger and community groups. The network will allow emergency service operators to know the location of every AED, allowing the operators to direct emergency services to the activated AED.
The AEDs are ‘smart’, giving verbal instructions and then shocking a patient only if they need it. They also use remote monitoring to sound an alert for flat batteries or out-of-date chest pads. All the cabinets are being hard-wired to keep them on standby, ready to use.
Over 30,000 people suffer cardiac arrest out of hospital across the UK every year and fewer than one in 10 survive. However, early chest compressions (CPR) and defibrillation can double the chances of surviving.
Sam Facey, Head of Zero Harm in the Safety & Health team at parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), said: “By fitting these life-saving AEDs, we believe we’ve made a genuinely positive contribution to the communities across our vast network, which covers London and nine counties.
“All our defibrillators are publicly accessible, so of huge benefit not only to those travelling with us but also the communities we serve. They’re fully automatic – anyone can use them – and our staff are being given familiarisation training.”
Sam added: “We’re fitting the same model across our network to provide consistency of quality, staff familiarity and maintenance, and at some stations, where we were updating an existing AED, we’ve been able to return the original device to local charities for use at a second location in the community.”
Medical experts from the South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) joined Southern Rail staff and local MP Henry Smith at Three Bridges to demonstrate the simplicity of using the station’s two AEDs.
Malcolm Legg, SECAmb’s Community Resilience Lead said: “SECAmb is delighted GTR is installing such a significant number of defibrillators at its stations. Public access defibrillators are vital life-saving pieces of equipment which everyone should feel confident in using.”
“Our call takers will help talk people through what to do if someone requires resuscitation. In this week of Restart A Heart Day, I would encourage everyone to learn CPR. It’s never too late to learn how to save a life.”
Crawley MP Henry Smith said: “Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern’s rail services keep the heart of our communities beating so it seems fitting to have publicly-available life-saving defibrillators at stations that can restart the heart of someone suffering a cardiac arrest.”
At Potters Bar in Hertfordshire, station assistant Curtis Cassell used the station AED to save a passenger’s life. Curtis said: “I ran out and saw the customer on the floor. He was older, in his 60s and someone I recognised as a regular. If there had not been a defibrillator, I don’t know what would have happened – I would think the worst.”
Sue Hampshire, Director of Clinical & Service Development at Resuscitation Council UK, said: “The installation of defibrillators at all Govia Thameslink stations is a fantastic move, and we encourage passengers and the wider community to develop the skills and confidence to use these lifesaving machines. It’s important that people can access defibrillators in busy areas, where they are likely to be needed.”
“Restart a Heart, which takes place on or around 16 October, is all about getting hands on and learning essential skills in CPR and defibrillation, and we’d encourage everyone to get involved so they can help someone if they collapse and stop breathing. Learn more about how to get hands on with Restart a Heart at resus.org.uk/rsah.”
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