New bid to make saving lives easier in Fife

Gillian Duncan (Picture by George McLuskie)
Gillian Duncan (Picture by George McLuskie)

A proposed new initiative from Fife Council could make it easier for potentially life-saving defibrillators to be disseminated across the region.

The authority has agreed to set up a pilot CPR and DEFIB Committee which aims to make it easier for local groups to install the equipment in their area.

Gillian demostrates a defibrillator to then Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon in 2011

Gillian demostrates a defibrillator to then Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon in 2011

Gillian Duncan of East Neuk First Responders says she approached the council with the help of Councillor Tim Brett with the idea of setting up a council-wide strategy and hopes it will encourage the public and communities to get involved.

“I will be sitting on the committee along with a number of other people that can help make this happen,” she said.

“The project officer who I met with is extremely keen and positive about this, so things are moving forward.

“They are pro-actively trying to promote to make it easier.”

Gillian says that Fife as a whole compares well with the rest of Scotland in the number of public access defibrillators available, but says the region’s bigger town’s, like Kirkcaldy, are “a little behind the smaller ones”.

Alex McDonald of Burntisland First Aid Services Trust (BFAST) says the number of defibrillators being installed is “gathering pace” and that they now include defibrillator training on all their courses.

He added: “One new initiative which has just been set up is the Scottish Ambulance Service now has a database of all defibrillator locations in the country, so if anyone calls 999 the operator would be able to tell them if there is one nearby.

“We are encouraging everyone we talk to make sure that theirs is included.”

The cost of a public access defibrillator, which needs to be stored in a climate controlled cabinet, is around £1,400.

Gillian says: “It costs a bit, but it’s nowhere near how much it used to be.

“There are some places and charities that will part fund them, and you can sometimes tap into some grants.

“However, what we have found is that the most successful areas to put them in is when the community raises the money themselves.

“Word gets out during the fundraising and it pulls the community together, because they feel engaged and that it’s theirs.”

Gillian is now working with four groups across Fife – including BFAST – to put defibrillators out.

“We work on the premise that if money is raised locally they can then go to these groups who will then supply them with the knowledge, they’ll help source the equipment and then deliver the awareness training – though I must stress that no training is required at all to use a public access defibrillator,” she said.

There are around 3500 cardiac arrests in Scotland each year, around 70 a week, only two of whom survive.

Gillian said: “For every minute that a defibrillator is delayed, up to a 10 per cent chance of survival is gone, so if we could get a defib to someone who needs it within three minutes, you would get survival rates of over 80 per cent and a lot of these people could then go on to live normal lives.”