If more bystanders performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) quickly and used defibrillators where available, thousands more people could survive cardiac arrests each year.

In its new 2015 guidelines, the Resuscitation Council says that as well as calling the emergency services straight away, people could improve a victim’s chances of survival if they gave CPR immediately on recognising the signs of a cardiac arrest.

Defibrillators are portable electronic devices that automatically diagnose and treat life threatening cardiac arrhythmias through the application of electrical therapy, allowing the heart to re-establish an effective rhythm. The use of a defibrillator within three to five minutes of collapse can make survival rates as high as 50 to 70%.

Fewer than 2% of victims in the UK have a defibrillator deployed before an ambulance arrives and of the 60,000 cases of suspected cardiac arrest each year, less than half of these have resuscitation attempted by ambulance services.

According to the Resuscitation Council, this is often because the casualty has not received CPR and it is then too late for the ambulance service to perform CPR when they arrive.

The advice of the Council is:

Early recognition and call for help

If someone is unresponsive and not breathing normally, they could be suffering a cardiac arrest. Bystanders need to identify this and call the emergency services immediately.

Early bystander CPR

By immediately initiating CPR, bystanders can double or quadruple the chances of someone surviving and being successfully discharged from hospital.

Early defibrillation

Defibrillation within three to five minutes of collapse can produce survival rates as high as 50 to 70%. Each minute of delay to defibrillation reduces the probability of survival to hospital discharge by 10%.

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