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Saving Lives Together

South Western Ambulance Service Cardiac Arrest Campaign - ‘Saving Lives Together’

Each year in England around 28,000 people receive a resuscitation attempt following an out of hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA).. In the South West, SWASFT responds to around 3,500 - 4,000 OHCA incidents each year.

A cardiac arrest is a time critical medical emergency where the heart stops beating effectively and abruptly. When this happens, blood stops pumping round the body and the brain is starved of oxygen which causes the person to fall unconscious and stop breathing. In adults, many cardiac arrests occur because of a heart attack, however, a heart attack is not the same as a cardiac arrest. A heart attack is when one of the coronary arteries becomes blocked and the heart’s essential blood supply is stopped, this can cause the heart to develop a dangerous heart rhythm which may lead to a cardiac arrest. A heart attack and a cardiac arrest are both medical emergencies – always call 999 straight away.

Across the UK, survival following an out of hospital cardiac arrest is around 9%, compared to more than 20% in other countries around the world. We want to do better in the South West.

Our Saving Lives Together campaign aims to compliment national initiatives from organisations such as the British Heart Foundation in addition to building on the fantastic results that have been achieved by ‘Restart a Heart Day’ - an annual initiative focusing on raising awareness about cardiac arrest. We hope that everyone will join us to help save lives together.

For every minute that a cardiac arrest patient does not receive CPR and defibrillation; their chance of survival reduces by 10%

What can you do?

The ambulance service cannot always save lives without support from bystanders in the first few minutes after a patient has collapsed. Following a cardiac arrest every second counts, as the nearest ambulance could possibly be minutes away, we need to increase people’s willingness, confidence and ability to help someone following cardiac arrest to help save lives.  

Doing something is better than doing nothing, and you could help save a life.

We need your support to help us save lives together by:

  1. Recognising when someone is unconscious and not breathing normally.
  2. Calling 999 for help
  3. Starting CPR
  4. Using a Public Access Defibrillators


► Recognising Cardiac Arrest

A cardiac arrest can happen without warning. If someone is in cardiac arrest they may have collapsed suddenly and:

  • Will be unconscious
  • Will not be breathing normally (either making gasping noises or not breathing at all).

Without immediate lifesaving treatment, a person will die. If you believe a person is experiencing cardiac arrest phone 999 immediately and start CPR.

► Calling for Help

In a medical emergency call an ambulance by dialling 999 or 112.

When you call, an operator will first ask you which service you need. In a cardiac arrest, ask for the ambulance service and you will be put through to one of our Emergency Medical Dispatchers.

Try to have the following information available when you call us:

  1. The location where you are, including the area or postcode.
  2. The phone number you are calling from.
  3. Exactly what has happened.

As soon as we know where you are we will start arranging help for you.

It is a good idea to download the location-finder app What3Words. This app helps us find you if you need the emergency services but don’t know exactly where you are or you’re in a remote or rural location.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech-impaired you can contact us by texting from your mobile. This facility is available in any type of emergency and is for people who can’t use the standard 999 voice or the RNID’s text relay services.

To use the text service you must register your mobile phone on the emergencySMS website.

► How to do CPR

If you see someone collapsed and not breathing normally, you need to act fast so they can have the best chance of survival.

To deliver CPR do the following:

  1. Interlock your fingers
  2. Place your hands in the centre of the chest
  3. Push down hard and then release twice per second, and don’t stop until help arrives.

Don’t worry, our Emergency Medical Dispatchers will help you with this when you call 999.

You can find out more about learning CPR by visiting the British Heart Foundation website.

► Where is my nearest defibrillator?


A defibrillator gives a jolt of energy to the heart, which can help restore the heart’s rhythm, and get it beating normally again.

This simple piece of equipment is easy to use and doesn’t require training, but it could make the difference between life and death.

The majority of out of hospital cardiac arrests occur at home – click here to find your nearest defibrillator.

Public access defibrillators (also known as AEDs) are designed to be used by anyone. When you switch the device on, it will provide clear instructions telling you what you need to do. A defibrillator will not harm the person suffering a cardiac arrest and will only give them a shock if it is needed. There's no reason to feel nervous about using a defibrillator - just follow its simple instructions and you may be able to save a life.

Defibrillators are increasingly common across the South West. They may be on the outside of public buildings or inside shopping centres, supermarkets and train stations. The defibrillator or cabinet containing it may say ‘AED’ or could have an image of a green heart on the outside.

It’s vital that members of the public can quickly access defibrillators in an emergency. The British Heart Foundation’s ‘The Circuit’ national defibrillator network helps to connect defibrillators to NHS ambulance services from across the UK. This means that in those crucial moments after a cardiac arrest, defibrillators can be accessed quickly to help save lives. Register your device on The Circuit.

Our Partnership with Gloucester Rugby

We are extremely proud to team up with Gloucester Rugby to highlight the importance of learning how to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

"My whole world went black"

David Humphreys, Director of Rugby said; “Gloucester Rugby is proud to support the Saving Lives Together campaign with South Western Ambulance Service to raise awareness of the importance of learning CPR. This campaign could save lives across the South West and across the whole UK.”


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Our charity, the South Western Ambulance Charity (SWAC), uses gifted monies to benefit those in our communities who use our service and to improve the welfare of SWASFT staff and volunteers. To donate to the charity, please click here.

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