Saving lives with CPR and defibrillators

Students from Lagan College learning CPR

When someone suffers a cardiac arrest, their life depends on receiving immediate CPR and a shock from a defibrillator.

Since the 1960s we've been at the forefront of ensuring millions of people know CPR and have access to defibrillators where they are needed most, saving thousands of lives as a result. 

1960s: Our work begins

Our life saving work began in the late 1960s, in Belfast. We provided the funds for Dr Frank Pantridge’s idea to install defibrillators in ambulances for the first time. 

1970s–80s: Defibrillators begin to be distributed in ambulances

We were the first organisation to fund defibrillators in frontline ambulances, and equipped most of the fleet before government funding was announced in the late 80s. Since this pioneering endeavour, we’ve part-funded over 14,000 defibrillators. 

Early 90s: The Resuscitation Council is established and Officer posts are funded

We supported the set-up of the Resuscitation Council that ensures resuscitation is conducted to the highest standards and is supported by guidelines and research. We funded Resuscitation Officer posts in urgent care settings that later became established across the NHS. 

1995–96: Heartstart is launched

We launched the Heartstart initiative to teach emergency life support skills, training millions of people in CPR and saving hundreds of lives. We were subsequently the first voluntary organisation to fund defibrillators in busy, public places. 

1999: Defibrillators in Public Places initiative

We worked with the Department of Health to place a further 700 defibrillators in various sites across the UK under a joint initiative.

2004–08: Raising awareness through funded posts and the media

We funded posts in ambulance trusts to promote Heartstart and the use of public defibrillators. Shortly after, we launched a campaign to raise awareness of the signs of a heart attack.

2011: Hands-only CPR

Our memorable advert, starring Vinnie Jones, has led to at least 40 lives being saved. 

2013–14: Influencing decision-makers to tackle heart disease

Across the UK, we successfully influenced government strategies for tackling heart disease, promoting the inclusion of actions to improve out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival rates. Between the 1980s and September 2014, we were able to invest over £50 million in community resuscitation thanks to your support. 

2014: Nation of Lifesavers is launched

To improve survival rates further we launched our Nation of Lifesavers programme, in October 2014, with the aim of teaching the nation CPR.

Our CPR kits, which are free to secondary schools and community groups, aim to teach vital life saving skills to members of the public across the UK. As of September 2016, we have trained approximately 1.2 million people through this programme, and distributed over 4300 kits around the country.  

Today: There are still too many avoidable deaths

Despite the great progress achieved over the last half-century, less than one in ten people survive an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in the UK.

In countries where CPR is taught in all schools, survival rates are up to three times as high.  

Learn CPR