Charities and public sector join forces to create a generation of young lifesavers

Posted by er134 at Feb 28, 2014 10:16 AM |
University of Leicester involved in project

Issued by University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust on 28 February 2014

EVERY secondary school student in Leicester and Leicestershire is to be offered emergency life support training thanks to a unique collaboration between local and national charities and the public sector.

The Joe Humphries Memorial Trust and East Midlands Pacemaker Fund have joined forces with the British Heart Foundation, East Midlands Ambulance Service, Resuscitation Council (UK), the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and leaders in city and county schools to offer an innovative lifesaving programme.

The Leicestershire Heartsafe Schools Programme will offer training in CPR and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) to all year 10 pupils in Leicester and Leicestershire.

Every secondary school will also be provided with its own defibrillator, thanks to a donation of 60 machines by the East Midlands Pacemaker Fund.

The aim of the project is to create lifesavers in every community and to increase the survival rates of cardiac arrest victims, which currently stand at approximately 10% in the UK, compared with 40% or more in some equivalent countries. Across the UK, this could amount to many thousands of lives being saved by the dissemination of simple skills and awareness.

The first phase of the programme will see training offered to all Year 10 students (age 14) over the next 18 months. More than 75 professionals have pledged their own time to run the programme. They will deliver hands-on training to over 12,000 Year 10 pupils and also train members of the school staff to become trainers, enabling the schools to deliver their own training over time.

The launch of the Leicestershire Heartsafe Schools Programme will be on Friday 28th February at the Leicester Tigers Rugby Football Club ground.

Dr Doug Skehan, Consultant Cardiologist at Glenfield Hospital and project lead said: “The Leicestershire Heartsafe Schools Programme is a remarkable collaboration between key agencies to teach resuscitation skills and defibrillator awareness to all school pupils in the region – a first of its kind in the country.

“Heartsafe will be a project of national importance as I believe the systematic approach to teaching these skills to school age teenagers promises to create a generation of young lifesavers who can also spread their training and understanding needed to their families and other parts of the community.”

Dr William Toff, Senior Lecturer in Cardiology at the University of Leicester and Programme Co-Director, said: “The presence of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in schools and teaching students about their use will help to bring about a cultural change. It will lead to a wider understanding of the importance of early access to defibrillation in the event of a cardiac arrest, and an appropriate expectation that AEDs should be more widely available in public places.”

Ambassador students from every secondary school involved will attend the event, along with supporters of the project from the city and county. These include representatives from the city and county councils, health professionals, members of the charity and business communities, and local sporting and cultural stars.

The University of Leicester Hospitals NHS Trust, which is hosting the project team, will hold an exhibition offering advice on cardiac care at the event.  It will also include CPR demonstrations, and survivors of cardiac arrest will tell their stories.

More information about the programme can be found at or e-mail:
The following websites also provide useful information about sudden cardiac arrest and its treatment: British Heart Foundation -; Joe Humphries Memorial Trust - ; Resuscitation Council (UK) -


Notes to editors:

The launch event will be held on Friday 28th February at the Leicester Tigers, GNC Stand (via main entrance), Aylestone Road, Leicester, LE2 7TR.

Launch programme

9am - event opens with Exhibition provided by UHL, and health (cardiac and related) companies
10am - formal launch commences
10.45am - practical CPR training sessions
12.30pm - event closes

People available for Interview:

Dr Doug Skehan, Consultant Cardiologist and project lead
Martin Johnson CBE, Heartsafe Ambassador and Patron of Joe Humphries Memorial Trust
Dr David Pitcher, Chairman, Resuscitation Council UK
Catherine Kelly, British Heart Foundation Director of Prevention and Care

The facts

Cardiac arrest most commonly occurs in adults, in whom it is usually caused by coronary heart disease but it can also occur in the young due to unrecognised congenital or inherited heart conditions.

There are about 60,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the UK each year, about half of which are attended by the emergency medical services. Of these, only 10% of those affected survive the event.

However, with immediate action by a trained bystander and rapid access to an AED, survival rates of 50% or more can be achieved. The key to survival is early cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and early defibrillation.

Minutes are vital – survival decreases by 7-10% for every minute of delay in intervention but only by 2-3% for every minute if CPR is started immediately.

The Joe Humphries Memorial Trust has played a key role in developing the project. The Trust was established following the death of 14-year-old Joe in October 2012.  Joe died from Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS), the adult version of cot death, while out running close to his home.

Joe’s dad Steve, family and friends set up the trust to raise awareness of SADS – subtle diseases of young hearts which cause the heart to suddenly go into an abnormal rhythm.  SADS strikes without warning and claims the lives of more than 650 young adults every year in the UK alone.

In the past 16 months the trust has campaigned for CPR training and defibrillators  in schools, community facilities and sports clubs. It has also trained more than 5,000 young people in CPR across the city and county.

Trust members, including its patron, former England rugby coach and Tigers’ player Martin Johnson, have also raised thousands of pounds to support their awareness raising activities and to celebrate young talent in honour of Joe’s memory.


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