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Feature – Defibrillators and Community Sport in Wales

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The summer of 2021 saw Welsh sport rocked by the deaths of two players following cardiac arrests on community pitches.

Cricketer Maqsood Anwar suffered a fatal heart attack while playing for Sully Centurions, with the tragedy being repeated just weeks later at Cwmllynfell Rugby Club when Alex Evans suffered the same fate.

Sadly, both Maqsood and Alex died, despite attempts by paramedics to save them.

Club secretary at Sully, Ricki Griffett knows a defibrillator may not have saved the life of Maqsood, but he wants the odds tilted in favour of other sports clubs when they deal with a heart attack.

Ricki says: “If we had had a defibrillator closer, then obviously you’re talking seconds by the time we could have got one.

“I’m not saying it would have saved his life, but it would have given him a much better chance.”

Defibrillator Machine on Wall
A defribrillator unit

 

Cwmllynfell RFC had a defibrillator at their ground, which was used when medics treated Alex, but not all sports clubs in Wales are in the same position.

According to the British Heart Foundation, every minute that passes without CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) or defibrillation reduces the chances of survival by up to 10 per cent, but immediate CPR and defibrillation can more than double the chances of survival.  It’s estimated that public-access defibrillators (PADs) are used in less than 10 per cent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCAs).

After the tragedies involving Maqsood and Alex, there were calls for sports clubs throughout Wales to ensure defibrillators are either on their premises or close by.

The Welsh Government recently announced an additional £500,000 to improve community access to defibrillators, while Sport Wales will meet the costs of training for clubs and organisations looking to ensure they are properly used.

The Welsh Rugby Union has teamed up with the Calon Hearts charity to ensure life-saving defibrillators will be installed at every club in Wales, free of charge this season.

While in cricket there is a heavily subsidised scheme in place to help clubs access the potentially life-saving equipment.

The reality that cardiac arrest can strike anyone on a sports field, no matter how fit or what age, was brought home in stark terms earlier this year when Danish footballer Christian Eriksen suffered a high profilecardiac arrest playing for his country at the Euro finals.

There are currently over 5,400 public access defibrillators registered on The Circuit in Wales, but it is estimated there are thousands more which the Welsh Ambulance Service has no record of – meaning they can’t be accessed by someone dialling 999 in an emergency.

Public Access Defibrillator costs vary but most units can be purchased within a range of £800 to £1200*.

There are around 2,800 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCAs) in Wales each year and Welsh Government figures show that just 1 in 20 people survive an OHCA in Wales.**

Costs of first aid and defibrillator training can be funded through applications to the Sport Wales Be Active Wales Fund – although you don’t need training to use a defibrillator. 

Adam Fletcher, Head of BHF Cymru said, “When someone has a cardiac arrest, early CPR and defibrillation can double their chance of survival. We want to see more people with the skills to perform CPR and improved accessibility and visibility of public access defibrillators. These are vital parts of the chain of survival.

“We encourage anyone responsible for a defibrillator to register it on The Circuit – the National Defibrillator Network – to ensure that the Welsh Ambulance Service knows where it is and as many people as possible can access it in an emergency.”

Announcing the additional funding recently, Welsh Government Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “Not only do we need a comprehensive network of defibrillators, but also to ensure that members of the public are equipped with the confidence to use them, as well as CPR skills in the event a defibrillator is not available.

“Every second counts when someone goes into cardiac arrest. We can all help raise awareness of the importance of early CPR and defibrillation.”

Useful Information

1. IN A LIFE THREATENING EMERGENCY, CALL 999

If you believe a person has suffered a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) and is unresponsive and not breathing, immediately ring either 999 or 112 and ask for the ambulance service. They will advise you on what action to take and either inform you where your nearest defibrillator is located or ask if you have a defibrillator. The operator will remain on the line and ask you a series of questions which should only take you a few moments and advise you on what steps to take to assist in emergency.

If you have a defibrillator at your sports club make sure it’s registered on The Circuit.

2. Apply for part-funding towards the cost of a PAD through charities.
Some of these are listed as follows*:

British Heart Foundation (UK) 
Community Heartbeat Trust (England) 
Heartbeat UK (England) 
SADS UK (England) 
Welsh Hearts (Wales) 

[javascript protected email address] (email address at the link).

3. Sport Wales will fund basic first aid to support the safety of participants.

You can access funding for first aid training courses through the Be Active Wales Fund. Defibrillator training can also be funded.
In addition, clubs can also apply for first aid equipment/medical bags through this same grant. 

Clubs should also contact their Governing Body to ask about any additional support they may be able to access.

*Information from Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust

**Information from British Heart Foundation

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