News Release

Defibrillators used in just 10 per cent of out of hospital cardiac arrests - study shows

Findings highlight need for better education and awareness around defibrillators, researchers say

Reports and Proceedings

British Heart Foundation

Defibrillators are being used in just one in ten cardiac arrests where the lifesaving devices are available, according to new research presented at the British Cardiovascular Society Conference in Manchester.  

The research drew upon data from the East of England Ambulance Service and The Circuit, the national defibrillator network developed by the British Heart Foundation (BHF). The Circuit maps the location of defibrillators across the whole of the UK, so that emergency services can direct bystanders to the nearest defibrillator in the event of a cardiac arrest.  

They then analysed the density of defibrillators across geographical areas, the number of cardiac arrests, as well as the frequency that defibrillators were used from April to September 2022. 

The results found that 1649 cardiac arrests occurred in the East of England in the six-month period. Public access defibrillators were available (within 500m of the cardiac arrest) in 1302 (79 per cent) cases, but only used in 132 (10 per cent) of cases. 

The researchers say these findings underline the need for better education and awareness around defibrillators, so that they are used more frequently. 

The study, from researchers at the Essex Cardiothoracic Centre (CTC), part of Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust (MSEFT), and Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) also found that there are fewer defibrillators in more deprived areas, compared to the most affluent. 

The researchers overlayed data on defibrillator density and cardiac arrests with data from the 2019 index of multiple deprivation. This revealed that Luton, the most deprived area in the East of England had the lowest rates of defibrillators in the region, with 16 defibrillators per 100,000 people, compared to the mean for the East of England of 72 per 100,000 people. 

There are more than 30,000 deaths from out of hospital cardiac arrests in the UK each year, and fewer than one in ten people currently survive. Prompt CPR and defibrillation can more than double someone’s chances of survival. 

Dr Thomas Keeble, Consultant Cardiologist at Essex CTC which is part of MSEFT, and Associate Professor at Anglia Ruskin University said: 

“Our study highlights strikingly low numbers of publicly available defibrillators being used in the event of a cardiac arrest in the east of England area, which suggests that much more needs to be done to promote awareness and education around CPR and defibrillation. It is also concerning to see far fewer defibrillators in the most deprived areas – such a finding should prompt further discussion about more consistent and effective placement of defibrillators in communities.”  

Judy O’Sullivan, Director of Innovation in Health Programmes at the British Heart Foundation said: 

“Prompt CPR and defibrillation from bystanders can be the difference between life and death, so it is concerning to see low rates of defib use. There are many known reasons for the low use of defibrillators, including not having enough bystanders available at the scene of an emergency, difficulty in accessing a defibrillator at the time when it is needed, or fear of it using it. More needs to be done to encourage people to use these life saving devices when they are available. 

“We also know there are thousands of unregistered defibrillators which means their location is not known to the ambulance services. We are calling upon everybody who owns or looks after defib to register it on The Circuit today – this could help save someone’s life.”  

Dr Simon Walsh, Medical Director at the East of England Ambulance Service Trust said: 
“The East of England Ambulance Service Trust has been working with The Circuit to maximise the number of maintained Public Access Defibrillators on our Computer Aided Despatch system, and since September 2022 we have added a further 1,534 PADs to the database.  

“We have also expanded our community first responder and staff responder schemes with the aim of increasing the likelihood that someone will be able to locate the nearest PAD to a patient in cardiac arrest. We continue to work closely with the Essex Cardiothoracic Centre and other partner organisations in the East of England to improve outcomes of cardiac arrests in our communities.” 

The study was funded by the East of England Cardiac Network.  



To request interviews or for more information please call the BHF press office on 020 7554 0164 or email newsdesk at

Notes to editors 

  • The Circuit is governed in partnership by the British Heart Foundation, Resuscitation Council UK, St John Ambulance and the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives 

  • Conference abstract available on request 

About the British Heart Foundation 

It is only with donations from the public that the BHF can keep its life saving research going. Help us turn science fiction into reality. With donations from the public, the BHF funds ground-breaking research that will get us closer than ever to a world free from the fear of heart and circulatory diseases. A world where broken hearts are mended, where millions more people survive a heart attack, where the number of people dying from or disabled by a stroke is slashed in half. A world where people affected by heart and circulatory diseases get the support they need. And a world of cures and treatments we can’t even imagine today. Find out more at 

About the British Cardiovascular Society (BCS)   

BCS is the voice for those working in cardiovascular health, science and disease management in the UK; we aim to promote and support both the healthcare professionals who work in cardiology and the patients for whom we want to encourage the best possible treatment. Our members are healthcare professionals, working in the field of cardiovascular health.   

Find out more at  

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.