Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) is transforming lives and communities by fitting life-saving automatic heart restarters (defibrillators) at stations across its network, which is one of Britain’s biggest, covering London and nine counties.
With more than 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests across the UK every year and less than one in ten surviving, the use of a defibrillator is vital, as without immediate treatment, 90-95% of sudden cardiac arrest victims will die.
GTR, with the Sussex Heart Charity, had already installed life-saving automatic defibrillators at around 50 stations throughout Sussex and several other busy stations. It has now begun to roll them out to over 200 more on the rest of its Thameslink, Great Northern and Southern networks.
Project sponsor Tom Moran, Managing Director of Thameslink and Great Northern, said: “Fitting defibrillators to all our stations is part of our commitment to transform lives and communities. I’m sure passengers will welcome this initiative – these devices are simple and straightforward to use and will save lives.
“Your chance of surviving a cardiac arrest fall by 10% for every minute without help and a defibrillator can increase chances of survival by 50%.”
The first four stations to be fitted with the new defibrillators are Welwyn Garden City, Hadley Wood, Knebworth and Potters Bar.
Helping launch the programme at Welwyn Garden City yesterday (10 December) was local resident Arline Hursey, who lost her 18-year-old son, James, to a sudden cardiac arrest four years ago and set up the national campaign group Defibrillators in Public Places (DiPPs).
Arline Hursey of DiPPs said: “James was a gentle giant at 6'4 with a wicked sense of humour and an all-encompassing hug. His loss was a devastating blow to his family, friends and his community.
“As time is of the essence when it comes to someone suffering from a cardiac arrest, we want to raise awareness and demonstrate to people the ease of using defibrillators within the first couple of minutes. Our vision is for everyone to be able to access a defibrillator within four minutes. It is a vital piece of equipment to saving the lives of our loved ones.”
Also supporting the launch was London Hearts, the leading heart charity in London for placing defibrillators in communities. With only 22% of the UK confident in performing CPR on a stranger, their session gave passers-by and commuters the chance to see and learn how simple and easy they are to use.
Kimberley Lloyd, London Hearts Head of Operations, said: “We are delighted to be working with GTR as they provide life-saving defibrillators across their rail network. It is great to see this investment in the health and well-being of their passengers and the wider community. Nobody in the 21st century should die because they don’t have a heart defibrillator nearby. This initiative is a guaranteed lifesaver which we fully support.”
GTR also held an event at Hadley Wood where Christmas carollers and 40 locals packed out the small ticket office to celebrate the installation of one of the first of the new defibrillators and watch a demonstration.
Those gathered heard from Georgie Parkes, 29, of Brookmans Park, whose life was saved by a defibrillator.
Five years ago she was driving with her partner to do some Christmas shopping. As she went to park the car she started to feel dizzy and then collapsed. She was having a cardiac arrest, aged just 24. Luckily there were paramedics on site in the shopping centre who brought a defibrillator. It gave her heart two shocks.
Georgie said: "It brought me back to life. I was very lucky to have that defibrillator. It has meant I have had a second chance at life. I went on to get married and now have a beautiful one-year-old daughter."
Francesca Caine, Chair of Hadley Wood Rail User Group, said: “Our rail users and the whole community are thrilled that Hadley Wood has been chosen as one of the first Great Northern stations to have a defibrillator installed. This is a really important scheme and we strongly support GTR’s initiative to help save lives.”
Notes to Editors
Automated external defibrillators (AEDS) are portable devices that check the patient’s heart rhythm. If a problem is detected, they send an electric shock to the heart to restore a normal rhythm. If a person does not need the shock of an AED, the machine will not deliver a shock. It is not possible to hurt someone with an AED; they can only be used to save someone’s life.
No formal training is necessary to operate an AED in a medical emergency as they “talk” the operator through the necessary steps. These defibrillators will ensure that, should any of passengers suffer a cardiac arrest within the vicinity of one of these AEDs, station staff or fellow passengers will be able to administer lifesaving actions before the ambulance arrives.
Govia Thameslink Railway
Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) operates Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express services as follows:
- Thameslink – cross-London services between Bedford/Peterborough/Cambridge and Brighton/Horsham/Littlehampton/East Grinstead, and between Luton/St Albans and Sutton/Wimbledon/Rainham; plus services between London and Sevenoaks
- Great Northern – services between London and Welwyn, Hertford, Peterborough, Cambridge and King’s Lynn
- Southern – services between London and the Sussex coast (Brighton, Worthing, Eastbourne, Bognor Regis, Hastings) and parts of Surrey, Kent and Hampshire (Ashford International, Southampton, Portsmouth)
- Gatwick Express – fast, non-stop direct services between Gatwick Airport and London Victoria
GTR is the most punctual of the large and complex operators in UK rail according to the latest 'On Time' statistics released by the Office of Rail and Road for the 12 months to 30 September 2019, and fourth of all train operators in the UK.