Scots face longer distances to access life-saving defibrillators than England or Wales, research shows.

One of the biggest studies to date looking at access to automated external defibrillators (AEDs) found the average distance in Scotland was 743 metres compared to 739 in England and 512 in Wales. The maximum distance in Scotland was 49km, 30 miles.

Coronary heart death rates are highest in Scotland and the north of England.

The research, by the University of York, also found that the postcode a person lives in may influence the chances of surviving a cardiac arrest.

There was a link between deprivation and access to a 24/7 defib in both Scotland and England but not in Wales.

On average, the equipment was 317.1m away in the most deprived areas of Scotland and 99.2m away in England's poorest areas.

Timely use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) is associated with improved outcomes in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

The Herald:

Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops pumping and is caused by a dangerous, abnormal rhythm.

Every minute of delay between the onset and defibrillation reduces the chance of survival by up to 10%.

With nearly three in 10 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happening on the weekend, the British Heart Foundation say quick access to a defibrillator at any time of the day is crucial.  

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The researchers, using data from The Circuit: the national defibrillator network, calculated the median road distance to a defibrillator with unrestricted public access in Great Britain’s 1.7 million postcodes, and studied the relationship between the distance to a defibrillator and an area’s level of deprivation.  

A total of 78, 425 AED locations were included.

Across the UK for 24/7 access, the median distances were 991m in England, 994m in Scotland and 570m in Wales.

In Wales, average distance to the nearest AED and 24/7 AED was shorter for the most deprived communities.

On average, a public access defibrillator is 726 metres away from the centre of any given postcode along the road network across Great Britain. 

The study concludes that equitable access to ’out-of-hours’ accessible AEDs may improve outcomes for people who experience out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.

Anyone can use a defibrillator, which checks the heart rhythm and will only tell users to shock if it’s needed. 

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Dr Chris Wilkinson, Senior Lecturer in Cardiology at Hull York Medical School and Honorary Consultant Cardiologist, who led the research, said: “By calculating how far every postcode in Great Britain is from its nearest defibrillator, we’ve shown just how much deprivation levels affect the public’s access to these lifesaving devices out-of-hours in England and Scotland.

"Making existing defibrillators accessible to the public 24/7 would make a big difference to the average distances people need to travel in an out-of-hours emergency, and would improve equality of access – which can help save lives.”  

Judy O’Sullivan, Director of Health Innovation Programmes at the British Heart Foundation, added: “We are proud that data from The Circuit has helped to highlight that deprived communities need better support to help improve response times to an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. 

"Bystander CPR and defibrillation can double the chance of survival from a cardiac arrest, so it is crucial that we address the unequal access to defibrillators in order to improve survival rates.” A charity spokesman said it was not possible to say which country had the best provision of defibrillators.

The BHF is encouraging anyone with a defibrillator to register it immediately so that the device is visible to ambulance services.

The study is published in the journal Heart and will be presented today at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Amsterdam.