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October 2020

Join Virtual Restart a Heart Day 2020

08 October 2020

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) is giving people the opportunity to learn how to save lives safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Trust, in association with the Resuscitation Council UK (RCUK) and other partner agencies, will host online cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillator training sessions for Restart a Heart Day (RSAH) 2020 on Friday 16 October. 

According to RCUK, coronavirus has reduced people’s willingness to perform CPR, and social distancing has limited opportunities for people to learn how to do it.

RSAH 2020 aims to help overcome these fears by teaching safe, effective CPR to give people the confidence and skills to save lives from sudden cardiac arrest.

Sharifa Hashem, SWASFT Patient Engagement Manager, said: “We know that CPR saves lives, and the more people learn CPR, the more lives we can save together.

“Instead of doing face-to-face events this year, we’ll be running a series of Facebook live events to teach people how and when to carry-out CPR safely, how to use defibrillators, and to answer any questions they may have.

“Fewer than one in 10 people survive an out of hospital cardiac arrest. But we know that calling 999, performing hands-only CPR, and using a defibrillator can make a significant difference to someone’s chance of survival.

“During COVID-19 many people have continued to perform CPR, which demonstrates the community spirit in the South West.

“We want to encourage as many people to join us at these sessions - whether they are at school, work or home. The more of us who know what to do, the more lives we can potentially save.”

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Cathy Angell, 38, from near Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire has shared her story after she survived a cardiac arrest.

Cathy stopped breathing while her son was having a riding lesson in April 2018. People around her called 999 and began CPR and responders used a defibrillator to keep her alive. She needed emergency heart surgery in hospital, and now lives with an internal defibrillator to regulate her heart rate.

She credited the bystanders’ actions for giving her a “second shot at life”.

Cathy said: “Without the CPR I wouldn’t still be here. I would urge anyone to learn how to do effective CPR, because it really does save lives.”


Carl Botham, 54, has also urged people to learn CPR, after his heart stopped at a Swindon hotel in April 2019.

Staff called 999 and began resuscitation, before paramedics arrived to continue CPR and shock him with a defibrillator. He was put on a life support machine in hospital, and went on to make an incredible recovery.

Carl said: “I’m so pleased the people there were able to do CPR so quickly and so very well.

“Four months after my sudden cardiac arrest, I had the most amazing day giving my daughter away at her wedding. It was the proudest day of my life, and a day I wouldn’t have had without the CPR. Now I am a very proud and lucky grandad to a little girl called Grace.

“I would ask everyone to learn this life skill, because you never know if and when you might need to help save someone’s life. I will always be thankful to Chris and Andy who saved mine!”

To sign-up to attend SWASFT’S RSAH Day on Facebook Live, click here:

The training sessions, lasting 30 minutes each, will take place at 10am, 12pm, 2pm, 4pm and 7pm.


  1. The group photos were taken before the Coronavirus pandemic.
  2. To watch Cathy tell her story, click here:
  3. For interviews, please email

Key messages:

  • A sudden cardiac arrest is an urgent medical emergency when the heart stops beating, abruptly and without warning. If this happens, blood stops pumping round the body, and the brain is starved of oxygen. That causes the person to fall unconscious and stop breathing.
  • Anyone can be affected by cardiac arrest at any time - and cardiac arrests haven’t stopped during COVID-19. In fact, early data shows they have increased - making learning CPR more important than ever.
  • When someone collapses and stops breathing normally, it is important to quickly call 999, perform hands-only CPR and use a defibrillator. This gives that person their best chance of life.
  • Don’t be afraid to get hands on! Hands-only CPR reduces your risk of catching an infection, and without intervention the person will quickly die.
  • Help the NHS save lives by getting hands on before the paramedics arrive.

Supplementary stats:

  • Survival rates from out of hospital cardiac arrest remain stubbornly low in the UK, with fewer than one in ten people surviving.
  • Thousands of lives could be saved every year if CPR was taught more widely.
  • More than 30,000 have a cardiac arrest out of hospital in the UK every year, and every minute without CPR and defibrillation reduces the chance of survival by up to 10%.
  • When someone suffers a cardiac arrest, performing immediate CPR can help double their chance of survival in some cases.
  • Most episodes (around 80%) of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest occur in the home, highlighting the potential benefit of family members trained in CPR.

 How to do CPR during a time of increased risk of infection:

  1. If someone is collapsed and not breathing normally, do not put your face next to theirs
  2. Call for an ambulance
  3. Use a towel or piece of clothing and lay it over the mouth and nose
  4. Do not do mouth to mouth
  5. Start chest compressions to the tempo of the Bee Gees song Stayin’ Alive.
  6. Use a Public Access Defibrillator if available.


Restart a Heart (RSAH) is an annual initiative led by Resuscitation Council UK in partnership with The British Heart Foundation, British Red Cross, St John Ambulance, and Yorkshire Ambulance Service which aims to increase the number of people surviving out-of-hospital cardiac arrests. In 2017 the initiative went global with the formation of World Restart a Heart.

Ambulance Service ‘Disappointed’ After Defibrillator Stolen

13 October 2020

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) has expressed disappointment after one of its lifesaving community defibrillators was apparently stolen.

The public access device, owned by SWASFT, was removed from its cabinet outside the McMillan Theatre, Bridgwater on 1 October at around 9.30pm.

George Vincent, SWASFT Community Responder Officer for Bristol and Somerset, said: “We are very disappointed by this apparent theft of one of our defibrillators.

“These devices are kindly funded and installed in partnership with the community by local organisations who want to support their communities and service users and to help increase the chances of survival for out of hospital cardiac arrests.

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“This lifesaving equipment really is the difference between a life lost and a life saved and the malicious theft of this item put the whole community at risk.

“Fortunately we have serviced the theatre with a spare defibrillator already to ensure the local community has access to this lifesaving equipment if required.”

The defibrillator has been in place for free public access since September 2016 with no issues until now.

Bridgwater & Taunton College and the Ambulance service work in close partnership to support students and the community. An irresponsible action like this which removes lifesaving equipment is particularly hard to accept and the college and the Trust will work with the Police to find the stolen defibrillator.

The college has been a key supporter of the 999 Academy – a joint emergency services’ initiative for young people in the South West to develop lifesaving skills and to inspire them to be part of the emergency services.

The concept was established by SWASFT and Devon and Cornwall Police in 2011 to create an opportunity for young people to develop knowledge and understanding of the emergency services, alongside volunteering opportunities and social action.

Anyone with information about the defibrillator should contact the Avon and Somerset Police either online or by calling 101, quoting the reference number 5220227070.

Notes to editors:

  1. A photo is attached of the cabinet that held the defibrillator outside the outside the McMillan Theatre, Bridgwater.
  2. The other image shows a Cardiac Science G5 defibrillator, which is the type that was apparently stolen.
  3. For interviews please email

On and around 16 October each year, an alliance of partners all over the world (including UK Ambulance Services, Medical Schools, and Fire and Rescue Services) come together to increase public awareness of cardiac arrests and increase the number of people trained in lifesaving CPR. They do this by organising and facilitating training events, and also providing opportunities for people to learn CPR digitally in the safety and comfort of their own home. You can view these digital resources at  

In 2019 more than 291,000 people learnt CPR as part of Restart a Heart. This year sees the seventh Restart a Heart and the third World Restart a Heart campaign.

Ambulance & Fire To Begin Covid-19 Winter Partnership

30 October 2020

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) is pleased to begin a new partnership with fire services in the region to boost its Covid-19 emergency response this winter.

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The mutual aid project, which first ran from April to August, will see fire personnel from Cornwall, Devon & Somerset, Dorset & Wiltshire, Avon and Gloucestershire fire and rescue services supporting the Trust from November until March. 

Under the agreement, firefighters will support ambulance crews by driving vehicles and work alongside clinicians to provide care and assistance to patients.

The initiative is part of a wider plan intended to safeguard the Trust’s delivery of safe and effective patient care during anticipated surges in demand.

Will Warrender, Chief Executive of SWASFT, said: “We are delighted to have secured a second agreement with our fire service partners to work together during what we expect will be a challenging winter.

“We collaborate closely with the fire services every day when we co-respond to road traffic collisions, property fires and various other types of emergencies.

“This strategic partnership will significantly benefit our response to Covid-19 and our overall care to patients throughout the South West.

SWASFT approached the fire services because it deemed their aid would be more sustainable than support from other ambulance trusts also responding to Covid-19.

Lee Howell, Chief Fire Officer of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Our firefighters supported South Western Ambulance Service with ambulance driving earlier this year. This was a fantastic example of blue light collaboration and helping the public at a time of need. We are very much here to help each other, our teams and partner organisations when they need it the most. We’re now making provisions to work together again during the challenging winter months.”

SWASFT was the only ambulance trust in England to approve and train fire personnel to drive on blue lights for the first phase of the partnership.

It invested in a fleet of 15 additional ambulances, which were used by fire service personnel as they responded to more than 6,000 emergency incidents.

Several firefighters have since secured roles with SWASFT as Emergency Care Assistants (ECAs).

Fire and rescue personnel will again wear their own uniform to represent their organisation during the second phase of the partnership.

SWASFT will provide clinical PPE (personal protective equipment) for the prevention and control of Covid-19.


  1. The group photo shows SWASFT representatives and fire service personnel at an event in July attended by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales to celebrate the partnership.

South Western Ambulance Charity logo

South Western Ambulance Charity

The South Western Ambulance Charity, founded in 1995, uses gifted monies to benefit those in our communities who use our service and to improve the welfare of the staff and volunteers of the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. 

Our charitable support covers Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire including Bristol and Swindon.

If you would like to show your appreciation for the care that you or your loved one has received from us in the form of a charitable donation please visit our online giving website: Donate to South Western Ambulance Charity | Give as you Live Donate