Highways England Traffic Officers equipped with life-saving defibrillators

From L to R: Traffic Officer Martin Smith, Highways England West Midlands; and Andy Jeynes, Community Response Manager West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust take a look at a new defibrillator.

Life-saving equipment has been rolled out across England’s 1900 miles of motorway with Highways England traffic officers now equipped with defibrillators.

The men and women keeping traffic moving and drivers safe already receive advanced first aid training and this new kit will allow them to help someone suffering from a cardiac arrest.

The roll out of 250 defibrillators across the traffic officer fleet took place in February, which was also national heart month. Highways England crews are often the first to the scene of incidents and they now have access to another tool which could save lives.

For every minute that passes without defibrillation a sudden cardiac arrest victim’s chances of survival decrease by 10 percent. When CPR is combined with the use of a defibrillator at the scene, traffic officers can increase the chance of the patient surviving significantly from around 2 percent, up to around 75 percent. Good CPR combined with using a defibrillator within the first three to five minutes saves lives.

Mel Clarke, Head of Customer Service, Highways England, said, “Our traffic officers are there to help drivers. From managing traffic at the scene of an incident, to moving debris and keeping traffic moving, their role is incredibly varied. Working round the clock means they are often the first to the scene of incidents and these defibrillators will allow them to perform lifesaving first aid until the emergency services arrive, potentially saving lives.”

The defibrillator initiative started in the Midlands in February and was quickly rolled out to the rest of the Highways England’s network, becoming part of the standard kit taken out on patrol by traffic officers across England.

This initiative has been welcomed by a wide range of organisations.

Anthony Marsh, Chairman of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, said, “I very much welcome the decision to place a defibrillator in each Highways England traffic officer patrol vehicle. A cardiac arrest can happen at absolutely any time and to anyone; young or old, fit or not. When someone suffers a cardiac arrest, not to be confused with a heart attack, they are clinically dead; their heart has stopped beating and they will not recover unless someone is prepared to start CPR quickly and a defibrillator is attached to them to reset the heart.

“Unfortunately, our ambulance crews respond to many cases where a driver has had a cardiac arrest at the wheel of their vehicle. As Highways England traffic officers are constantly on the major road network, there is a good chance that they will be the first person on scene in such an occasion.”

Judy O’Sullivan, Director of Health Innovation Programmes at the British Heart Foundation, added, “More than 30,000 people have a cardiac arrest outside of hospital in the UK every year. Tragically, only one in 10 survive, and every minute without CPR or defibrillation reduces the chances of survival by 10%.

“But there is hope. More people could be saved if everyone felt confident performing CPR and using a public access defibrillator. By rolling out 250 defibrillators across English highways, Highways England are doing their part to help give cardiac arrest victims the best chance of survival. The British Heart Foundation encourages all workplaces to ensure their employees are trained in lifesaving CPR skills and in how to use a public access defibrillator. It could really make the difference between life and death.”  

Shaun Ingram, Managing Director at Cardiac Science, added, “We are delighted to be able to supply Highways England with 250 life-saving Powerheart G5 Defibrillators. Whether you are an experienced rescuer or a first-time responder, this Automated External Defibrillator provides a powerful combination of features that help rescuers provide sudden cardiac arrest victims with swift, effective and potentially life-saving therapy.”