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London Ambulance Service launches ambitious schools campaign in bid to improve cardiac arrest survival

Thousands of school children will be taught how to save a life as part of an ambitious campaign to create a generation of lifesavers, kick starting in boroughs where data suggests the impact would be greatest.

The London Lifesavers schools programme, which launches today on Re-start a Heart Day, will see London Ambulance Service paramedics teach life-saving skills to Year 8 children in the biggest programme of its kind to target youngsters in the capital.

It is offering the free service to schools as part of a drive to make the capital one of the best cities in the world at responding to cardiac arrest.

Copenhagen, Seattle and Victoria State have proved survival rates improve with increased bystander intervention, where members of the public can recognise the condition quickly, call an ambulance and start CPR and defibrillation quickly.

Sam Palfreyman-Jones, Head of First Responders, said: “We know that by teaching life-saving skills in schools and giving children the confidence to use a defibrillator, more lives will be saved in those crucial minutes before an ambulance arrives.

“Most cardiac arrests happen in the home, so we hope to show children that by learning these simple skills, they could save someone they love.”

This is exactly what teenager Olivia Christofides did when her step-father Geraldo Folie collapsed at home earlier this year. Olivia – who learnt life-saving skills in the scouts – recognised the signs of cardiac arrest and immediately dialled 999 and started giving him chest compressions.

Olivia said: “I learned what to do at Scouts five or six years ago but the training kicked in as soon as I saw Geraldo gasping for breath.

“I’m so happy seeing Geraldo at home now – I see him laugh and tell myself ‘wow, look what I did!’. “When I learned these skills I never expected to use them but these incidents happen and thanks to London Lifesavers, more lives will be saved.”

London Ambulance Service aims to get to two schools a week and teach 80,000 children in every borough over the course of the campaign. It has used data to target seven ‘wave one’ boroughs: Brent, Barking and Dagenham, Harrow, Newham, Ealing, Redbridge and Enfield, where it has invited schools to take up the training.

To do this, experts analysed cardiac arrest data borough by borough (including higher cardiac arrest incidents, lower rates of bystander CPR, lower survival rates, and fewer defibrillators) as well as demographic data including levels of deprivation.

For example, bystander CPR rates were highest in Waltham Forest, Redbridge and Hackney and lowest in Kensington and Chelsea, Ealing and Southwark.  Defibrillator availability is lowest in Waltham Forest, Barking and Dagenham and Hackney and highest in Richmond up Thames, Greenwich and Hillingdon.

LAS Chief Executive Daniel Elkeles said: “We want London to be one of the best cities in the world when it comes to responding to cardiac arrest. The good news is that we have some of the best response ambulance response times in the country for these emergencies but every second counts before an ambulance and the international evidence shows that increasing bystander intervention is the key.  We need to build a social movement that makes CPR training one of the things that lots of people know how to do and we need to get defibrialtors in every corner of the city.”

Early chest compressions and the use of a defibrillator can more than double someone’s chances of survival.

The London Lifesavers team from LAS have already taught these skills to students at Bishop Thomas Grant School earlier this year.

School head teacher Bernie Boyle said: “You never know when you might need these skills. We didn’t hesitate to sign up for London Lifesaver training for our Year 8 children. We are so proud to be part of this programme which is creating a new generation of lifesavers.”

The London Lifesavers team also train members of the public at pop-up events across London and offer training to businesses, charities and community organisations.

As part of the campaign, LAS is also seeking to get thousands more defibrillators into communities where they can start saving lives.

Schools can find opportunities to train Year 8 cohorts on our London Lifesavers schools webpage.

You can also learn how to save a life and join our London Lifesavers Campaign.

London Lifesavers is funded through a grant provided by NHS Charities Together to our charity, London Ambulance Charity.

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