Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has today called for the implementation of an offence aggravator, in the form of additional fines, for people who damage automated external defibrillators (AEDS).
Research by the Scottish Liberal Democrats showed that publicly accessible defibrillators varied hugely by area, with West Edinburgh having 39 compared to over 100 in North East Fife. AEDS are usually kept in cabinets in public locations but are locked for security purposes.
Around 3,500 people in Scotland undergo attempted resuscitation for cardiac arrest outside hospital each year, but only around five per cent survive to hospital discharge. Use of a defibrillator within 3-5 minutes of cardiac arrest can increase survival rates to as much as 75 per cent.
Alex Cole Hamilton commented:
“I would urge the Scottish Government to look into stricter penalties for anyone who damages or interferes with defibrillators. These are life saving devices which come at quite a cost to the local community. As it stands, many of them are rendered useless because they remain locked out of fear of vandalism.
“The priority is to get a defibrillator and apply it to the person in cardiac arrest with an absolute minimum of delay. Unlocked cabinets allow immediate access to a defibrillator in a situation where every second counts.
“A fine of this kind is important in forcing a culture shift where communities feel confident in installing accessible, unlocked, defibrillators in the knowledge that instances of theft or vandalism will be appropriately reprimanded.”
Dr James Cant, Chief Executive Officer of the Resuscitation Council (UK) said:
"Defibrillators play a crucial role in the chain of survival when someone collapses and stops breathing – as well as calling for help and beginning CPR, someone needs to get- and use- a defibrillator. It's essential that these life-saving devices are available without delay in an emergency situation. To steal or damage one is unthinkably cruel and could prevent someone’s life being saved.”